The concept of a drastic shift in mood being classified as an illness was first described by the French psychiatrist Jean-Pierre Farlet in 1851 (Marmol, 2008). Farlet coined the term “Folie Circulaire” to label a disorder characterized by manic and sad episodes separated by symptom-free intervals (Marmol, 2008). As time passed, the description along with the classification changed, altering from an entity on its own to a unified disorder with other mood disorders (Marmol, 2008). As it stands today, bipolar disorder (BD) is a psychiatric disorder characterized by cycling depressive and manic episodes (Federman, 2010). It also encompasses many other cognitive symptoms leading to disruptive daily functioning, deteriorating interpersonal relationships, financial difficulties as well as drawbacks on employment and/or education (Jones & Bentall, 2008). By describing the symptoms, diagnostic criteria, etiology, epidemiology and prognosis of the disorder, it will become clear why certain treatment options are effective while others are not.
Symptoms and Diagnostic Criteria
According to the DSM-IV-TR, bipolar disorder is classified on the Axis I as a mood disorder (Galanter, Hundt, Goyal, Le & Fisher, 2012) and its symptoms can be divided into two subcategories, manic and depressive (Federman, 2010). The criteria for a manic episode constitute a distinct period of abnormally and continuously elevated, or irritable mood, lasting at least 1 week (or any duration if hospitalization is required). Also, during the period of mood disturbance, 3 or more of the following symptoms have been present: inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, more talkative than usual, impulsive behaviour, flight of ideas etc. Furthermore, the mood disturbance is severe enough to cause noticeable impairment in normal functioning and the symptoms are not due to any physiological effect of a substance (Galanter et
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