Mental Illness: Bipolar Disorder

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Naomi Warner
Mental Illness: Bipolar Disorder
HCA/240

Bipolar disorder is perhaps one of the oldest known illnesses. Research reveals some mention of the symptoms in early medical records. It was first noticed as far back as the second century. Arêtes of Cappadocia (a city in ancient Turkey) first recognized some symptoms of mania and depression, and felt they could be linked to each other. His findings went unnoticed and unsubstantiated until 1650, when a scientist named Richard Burton wrote a book, The Anatomy of Melancholia, which focused specifically on depression. His findings are still used today by many in the mental health field, and he is credited with being the father of depression as a mental illness. Jules Falret coined term "folie circulaire" (circular insanity) in 1854, and established a link between depression and suicide. His work led to the term bipolar disorder, as he was able to find a distinction between moments of depression and heightened moods. He recognized this to be different from simple depression, and finally in 1875 his recorded findings were termed Manic-Depressive Psychosis, a psychiatric disorder. Another lesser-known fact attributed to Falret is that he found the disease seemed to be found in certain families thus recognizing very early that there was a genetic link. In 1913, Emil Krapelin established the term manic-depressive, with an exhaustive study surrounding the effects of depression and a small portion about the manic state. Within fifteen years, this approach to mental illness was fully accepted and became the prevailing theory of the early 1930’s. Throughout much of the 1960’s many with the disorder were institutionalized and given little help financially because of Congress’ refusal to recognize manic depression as legitimate illness. Only in the early 1970’s were laws enacted and standards established to help those afflicted. In 1980, the term bipolar disorder replaced manic-depressive disorder as a diagnostic term found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-III). During the 1980’s research finally was able to distinguish between adult and childhood bipolar disorder, and even today more studies are needed to find the probable causes and the possible methods to treat the illness. (A Brief History of Bipolar Disorder, Today’s Caregiver, 2012)

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness characterized by alternating periods of depression and mania. Myths about the disorder abound. For example, people with bipolar disorder can't parent. If bipolar disorder is controlled through therapy, medication, or knowing how to ride the highs and lows, the patient can be a very successful parent. Someone suffering with bipolar disorder can get a lot done during manic times, and you can channel the silly impulsiveness into doing playful things with your kids. Another example is, people with bipolar disorder can't work. While many people with bipolar disorder pursue creative professions, they also can be successful doctors, lawyers, teachers and anything else thought of. Ted Turner and Winston Churchill reportedly have or had bipolar disorder. Other myths surrounding this disorder are people with bipolar disorder can't have relationships, manic phases are happy phases, the depression is debilitating, and being moody means you have bipolar disorder. (Myths about Bipolar Disorder, A Fox, 2011)

In ancient times, treatment of bipolar disorder included bleeding, inducing vomiting and rest and relaxation in curative mineral waters. These treatments continued to be used for thousands of years, though more pernicious treatments such as sterilization and institutionalization also were used. With industrialization came additional treatments utilizing electricity in a primitive form of electroshock treatment and increasing sedation of patients. This all changed in the 1950s, when the drug lithium was found to be an...
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