Bipolar disorder, also known as manic–depressive disorder, is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and mood. These moods are clinically referred to as mania or, if milder, hypomania. Individuals who experience manic episodes also commonly experience depressive episodes or symptoms, or mixed episodes in which features of both mania and depression are present at the same time. These episodes are usually separated by periods of "normal" mood, but in some individuals, depression and mania may rapidly alternate. Extreme manic episodes can sometimes lead to psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations (Basco, 2005). Genetic factors contribute substantially to the likelihood of developing bipolar disorder, and environmental factors are also implicated. Bipolar disorder is often treated with mood stabilizer medications, and sometimes other psychiatric drugs. Psychotherapy also has a role, often when there has been some recovery of stability. In serious cases in which there is a risk of harm to oneself or others involuntary commitment may be used; these cases generally involve severe manic episodes with dangerous behavior or depressive episodes with suicidal ideation. There are widespread problems with social stigma, stereotypes and prejudice against individuals with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder exhibiting psychotic symptoms can sometimes be misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia, another serious mental illness (The National Institute of Mental Health, 2009).
The signs and symptoms of this illness are varying between individuals. Bipolar disorder is a condition in which people experience abnormally elevated (manic or hypo manic) and abnormally depressed states for periods of time in a way that interferes with functioning. Not everyone's symptoms are the same, and there is no blood test to confirm the disorder. Bipolar disorder can appear to be unipolar depression, (mental disorder characterized by an all-encompassing low mood accompanied by low self-esteem, and loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities). Diagnosing bipolar disorder is often difficult, even for mental health professionals. What distinguishes bipolar disorder from unipolar depression is that the affected person experiences states of mania and depression. Often bipolar is inconsistent among patients because some people feel depressed more often than not and experience little mania whereas others experience predominantly manic symptoms. Signs and symptoms of the depressive phase of bipolar disorder include persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt, anger, isolation, or hopelessness; disturbances in sleep and appetite; fatigue and loss of interest in usually enjoyable activities; problems concentrating; loneliness, self-loathing, apathy or indifference; loss of interest in sexual activity; irritability, chronic pain (with or without a known cause); lack of motivation; and morbid suicidal ideation. In severe cases, the individual may become psychotic, a condition also known as severe bipolar depression with psychotic features (Mayo Clinic, 2010).
Mania is generally characterized by a distinct period of an elevated, expansive, or irritable mood state. People commonly experience an increase in energy and a decreased need for sleep. A person's speech may be pressured, with thoughts experienced as racing. Attention span is low and a person in a manic state may be easily distracted. Judgment may become impaired; sufferers may go on spending sprees or engage in behavior that is quite abnormal for them. They may indulge in substance abuse, particularly alcohol or other depressants, cocaine, other stimulants, or sleeping pills. Their behavior may become aggressive, intolerant or intrusive. People may feel out of control or unstoppable. People may...
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