Bipolar disorder is as serious as other chronic illnesses

Bipolar disorder, what is it?

I have decided to dedicate the next few articles to understanding Bipolar disorder.

The focus will be on American Psychological Association criteria for Bipolar disorder, depressive episodes and symptoms, manic episodes and symptoms, prevalence and recommended treatment.

My hope is that through the educational material provided it reduces the common misconceptions of the diagnosis.

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression.

It is a clinical disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy and behavior.

According to the American Psychological Association, bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness in which common emotions become intensely and often unpredictably magnified.

Individuals with bipolar disorder can quickly swing from extremes of happiness, energy and clarity to sadness, fatigue and confusion. These shifts can be so devastating that individuals may choose suicide.

Here are some facts about bipolar disorder.

·         It is a medical diagnosis that is as serious as other chronic illnesses like diabetes and or arthritis.

·         Bipolar is not the result of childhood experience, upbringing or lifestyle. However, stressful experiences may trigger an episode.

·         Bipolar disorder affects a variety of areas, including mood, energy, activity, sleep, speech, thinking, judgment and behavior.

·         Bipolar Disorder is identified by episodes of “highs” and “lows” called mania and depression.

·         It begins early in life (usually in adolescence or early adulthood) and is generally lifelong.

·         A person can experience one episode of mania in his or her lifetime and still meet criteria for the diagnosis.

·         Substance abuse, especially alcohol, is common in people with bipolar disorder. Prevalence is estimated at 60 percent of individuals.  Substance abuse also includes the abuse of stimulants, sedatives or other drugs

·         Alcohol or other substances can worsen the course of bipolar disorder, severity and duration of either manic or depressive episodes.

Anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety and phobias, are common in both manic and depressive episodes.

Researchers believe that bipolar disorder can be caused by genetics.

If one parent has a mood disorder, there is a 20 percent chance it will be passed down.

If both parents have mood disorders, that increases it to an 80 percent chance.

It may also be caused by a chemical imbalance affecting certain parts of the brain.

All people with bipolar disorder have manic episodes — abnormally elevated or irritable moods that last at least a week and impair functioning. But not all become depressed.

Be  sure to watch for the next article in this series where I will focus on manic episodes.