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Mental illnesses can take many forms, just as physical illnesses do. Mental illnesses are still feared and misunderstood by many people, but the fear will subside as people learn more about them. Statistics show that one in every five Canadians will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives.

People with bipolar disorder, or manic depressive disorder, experience alternating mood swings, from emotional highs (mania) to lows (depression). The condition can range from mild to severe. These mood swings are not necessarily related to events in the person’s life. Bipolar disorder typically starts in late adolescence or early adulthood and affects men and women equally. There is not a known cause for bipolar disorder. It is suggested that people with the condition have a genetic disposition. This disorder tends to run in families. Traumatic childhood events or drug abuse may contribute to or trigger episodes. “Evidence indicates that differences in the chemical messengers between nerve cells in the brain (neurotransmitters) occur in people who have bipolar disorder. In many cases, people with a bipolar disorder may have a genetic disposition for the disorder. The abnormality may be in genes that regulate neurotransmitters. However, not everyone with a family member who has bipolar disorder will develop the disease.”

Signs and Symptoms in the manic phase may include feelings of euphoria, extreme optimism and inflated self-esteem, rapid speech, racing thoughts, agitation and increased physical activity, poor judgment, recklessness or taking chances not normally taken, difficulty sleeping, tendency to be easily distracted, inability to concentrate, or aggressive behaviour. In the depressive phase, signs and symptoms include persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt or hopelessness, disturbances in sleep and appetite, fatigue and loss of interest in daily activities, problems concentrating, irritability, chronic pain without a known cause, or...
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