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Understanding Bipolar Disorder

By Anne Wolski

Bipolar disorder, once known as manic depression, is an illness where the sufferer alternatively experiences both extreme joy and terrible desolation. Medication and therapy are generally used to stabilize the condition.

Sufferers are often detached, introverted, and emotionally sensitive even though during the manic phase their behaviour takes on a very extroverted form. In some cases the condition may have a fanatical or religious element.

This is a severe mental disturbance and an affective psychosis. It is sometimes referred as bipolar disorder psychosis. Sometimes a sufferer tries to hide emotions such as anxiety or shyness and, in so doing, he or she becomes carried away with their feelings.

Bipolar disorder does not appear to be caused by stress itself but can be affected by outside tensions or abnormal attitudes in their upbringing. It is thought that these things may stimulate the area of the brain which produces chemicals, thus creating the mood swings experienced in bipolar disorder.

The cause of bipolar disorder remains inconclusive but it is thought that a deficiency in the hormonal means that regulate the balance of emotions may be a contributing factor. The brain produces two chemicals that regulate mood and these are serotonin and norepinephrine. Serotonin, if insufficient, may cause general mood instabilities. Norepinephrine, if in low supply, can cause depression. If it is excessive, it can produce mania.

There are two forms of mania associated with bipolar disorder. These are hypomania and hypermania. Hypomania is the form of mania when it is not excessive and hypermania refers to the mania when it is very extreme - when the patient is in a highly frantic and euphoric state. Usually, when a patient is in a manic state, they talk excessively and at high speed. They flit from one subject to another and become very easily distracted. In extreme cases, the patient may experience delusions and hallucinations or act violently. They may also become confused and disoriented.

As well as manic periods, the patient may go into a severe depressive state. This is characterized by fatigue, despondency, and extreme sadness. When the depression is at its most severe, the patient may become silent and motionless. One of the real risks during this stage is that of suicide.

Manic and depressive moods often arise without warning and last for some time- even weeks or months if no treatment is given. Living with someone in either the manic or depressive stage is not easy although they are usually not dangerous to others. However, they may become a danger to themselves if not treated.

Conventional drug therapy for bipolar disorder is generally used to help with both the depression and the manic episodes. Tricyclic antidepressants control the depressive states and sedatives and tranquilizers control the manic occurrences. Lithium carbonate is commonly used as it stabilizes both of the mood swings.

Bipolar disorder is still very much a mystery but people who suffer from the disease have learned to recognize the early signs of mood swings. This helps them to cope by taking the necessary medication or other actions. This helps them to lead relatively normal lives.

Copyright 2006 Anne Wolski

About The Author
Anne Wolski has worked in the health and welfare industry for more than 30 years.

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