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What is Bipolar Disorder?
by Sara Duggan
10/06/03
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BIPOLAR DISORDER

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder with two extremes, mania and depression. The older term for this disorder was manic-depressive psychosis. There are three basic types of bipolar disorder: (1) depressive, (2) manic, and (3) mixed. In the depressive type, the dominant mood is low. In the manic type, the dominant mood is elevated. In the mixed type, there is frequent alteration of mood. However, in all types, there has been at least one manic episode. Bipolar disorder is not to be confused with cyclothymiacs disorder, a condition also characterized by mood swings. A basic difference between the two disorders is that a cyclothymiacs disorder, mood swings are generally neither as extreme nor as severe as they are with bipolar disorder.

A manic episode is characterized by a set of related behavior patterns. These include excessive excitement, euphoria, rapid mental activity, a great amount of talking, and an exaggerated sense of importance, extreme irritability, a sense of great power, and a tendency to sleep very little. The personís speech often jumps from one subject to another on the basis of chance association between words. This tendency is termed a flight of ideas. Sometimes the thoughts and ideas expressed during a manic episode seem to be beyond all reason. In such a case, the individual is said to be delusional.

A depressive episode is not distinguishable in and of itself from depression in general. Therefore, a person is diagnosed suffering from bipolar disorder only if, as noted before, there is a least one manic episode. It is typical for the manic episode to appear first. If it eventually gives way to depression, and does not recur, then the diagnosis may still be bipolar disorder but of the depressive type.

Estimates of the incidence of bipolar disorder in the general population suggest that about half to one percent to slightly over one percent of adults will suffer from the disorder at least once. Symptoms usually first appear between the ages of 20 and 30. Although depression is twice as common in women as it is in men, bipolar occurs about equally in both sexes.

When bipolar disorder is in an acute phase, the individual is often hospitalized until some regulation can be achieved. The most common form of drug therapy is to prescribe lithium carbonate. This is combined with effective psychotherapy. Many persons with the disorder can and do lead relatively normal lives.

Lithium carbonate is the principal tranquilizing drug used to treat bipolar disorder. Lithium carbonate is marketed under several trade names such as Eskalith, Lithane, Lithonate, and Lithotabs. It is hypothesized that lithium carbonate is effective in modulating both mania and depression by (1) regulating the action of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system and (2) producing beneficial cellular changes in neurons.

Although lithium carbonate is not a habit-forming drug, a prescription is required for its use. It has potentially adverse side effects, and the amount taken must be carefully regulated. In very large doses the drug can be quite toxic.


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Member Comments
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MARTIN SMITH 07 Jun 2012
GOD is a GOD of order, not disorder. HE can and will set things right. HIS word of truth still has the power and will set us free. GOD has not given us a spirit to fear; but of power, of love, and of a sound mind!!
Phyllis Inniss  30 Nov 2005
Thanks for sharing your knowledge of this disorder with us. I had only read the name in one or two articles, but never really understood what the term meant.
Beverly Murrelle 14 Oct 2003
This is an excellent write on the bipolar disease. My ex-husband is bipolar. I understand the disease so much more now than when I was married. Too close to the situation at the time to make any sense out of what was going on.




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