Addiction A-Z

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a chronic, incurable mental disorder characterized by drastic and unusual mood shifts. It used to be called manic-depression and affects about 2.5 million Americans. Of these, 82.9% are classified as severe. People with bipolar disorder have differences in the biochemistry of their brains, and some of these can be seen through MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging). The disease has a genetic basis, and people who have close relatives suffering from bipolar disease are Bipolar Disorder10 to 20 times more likely to have it too. People with bipolar disease have mood shifts that affect their energy levels, thoughts, behaviors, and ability to function. They usually “cycle” from extreme mania to depression with periods of stability between those phases. To be diagnosed with Bipolar I, a patient must meet five criteria for a major depressive episode, and three for an episode of mania. To be diagnosed Bipolar 2, a patient must meet five criteria for a major depressive episode and four for an episode of hypomania. Symptoms or criteria for depression are depressed mood, loss of interest in everyday activities, weight loss, insomnia, feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt, changes in psychomotor activity, diminished ability to think or concentrate, thoughts of death or suicide, and fatigue. Symptoms of mania are grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, talkativeness, racing thoughts, distractibility, increased goal-related activities, and involvement in pleasurable activities that can have difficult consequences, such as shopping sprees. Cycles can be triggered by lack of sleep, stress, or trauma. The disease has a high suicide rate and 50% of patients abuse drugs or alcohol. It was formerly believed that bipolar disease always began in late adolescence, but today it is being increasingly diagnosed among children, even as young as two years old. Treatment consists of therapy, medication, and education so that the patient can learn to manage the condition.

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