Bipolar disorder, also referred to as manic depression, is a mood disorder. A person with bipolar disorder will have extreme mood shifts between mania, a state of highly elevated euphoric feelings, and depression, a state of despondency and despair. These shifts can take weeks, days, or even minutes to happen. The period between shifts will vary for each individual, depending on the severity of the disorder (Williams & Wilkins, 1999, pp. 5-35).
Approximately two percent of adults have this mental illness, and about fifteen percent of those adults will attempt suicide. Bipolar disorder affects both men and women and the affected rates are similar between different cultures and countries. Most people with bipolar disorder experience their first mood episode in their twenties, although it is not uncommon to experience the first episode during childhood or in late life (Bi-polar Disorder: Innovative Research in Health, 2000).
Bipolar disorder is not a curable disorder, although it is treatable. Bipolar is "among the most treatable of the psychiatric illnesses" (Manic-Depressive/Bipolar Disorder, 2000). It is important for people who believe that they may need help to seek it as soon as possible because the earlier that bipolar disorder can be diagnosed the earlier treatments can start.
Even after experiencing an episode, even after sensing that something may be wrong, individuals who seek help may not initially receive the correct diagnosis from a medical professional. Because of the similarity of symptoms, bipolar disorder may initially be misdiagnosed as panic disorder, schizophrenia, or attention deficit disorder (Bi-polar Disorder: Innovative Research in Health, 2000). Bipolar may also be difficult to diagnose because the person seeking help may not be telling the doctor everything the doctor needs to know to correctly identify the problem. Medical professionals may only diagnose a person as having depression because they have no knowledge of the excessive enthusiasm that the patient feels. It is important for individuals seeking medical help to be accurate and thorough in describing their feelings or symptoms (Manic-Depressive/Bipolar Disorder, 2000).
A person experiencing a manic episode may have increased energy and/or racing thoughts. Feelings of euphoria and/or an increased pressure to talk may also be symptoms. A person in this stage of the illness may have uncharacteristically poor judgement and/or may be involved in some type of high-risk behavior, such as uncontrollable spending sprees, habitual reckless driving and/or participating in unusual sexual encounters and behaviors. Usually the individual denies that anything is wrong when in a manic state (Manic-Depressive/Bipolar Disorder, 2000).
A person experiencing the depression state of bipolar disorder may have feelings of worthlessness and/or guilt. Decreased energy and/or loss of interest in once pleasurable activities may also be symptoms of clinical depression. A depressed person may have trouble concentrating and/or have trouble making decisions. Depression may also leave individuals contemplating suicide (Manic-Depressive/Bipolar Disorder, 2000).
There are two classifications for bipolar disorder, bipolar II and bipolar I (Williams & Wilkins, 1999, pp. 5-35). The combination and degree of mania and depression determine the type of bipolar illness. It is also determined by how long each stage lasts and the time frame of euthymia, having normal moods, between...