Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental illness that can affect a person's mood and energy, often in severe ways, according the National Alliance on Mental Illness. These moods swings come in the form of mania, an extreme emotional high, and depression, an extreme emotional low. More than 10 million suffer from bipolar disorder, and men and women are equally affected, though the severity of mood swings vary.
Type I, Type II and Cyclothymia
Bipolar disorder can be separate into several subcategories, accorind to mayoclinic.com. Bipolar I disorder is the most serious form of the illness, and can disrupt a person's personal and professional life drastically. Those suffering from this type of bipolar disorder have experienced at least one manic episode in their life, and often endure episodes of depression as well.
Individuals usually cycle between the depression and manic episodes or experience mixed moods, according to Webmd.com. If not treated, manic episodes can last for several days to several years. Depression usually follows shortly afterwards, or may not happen for weeks. Some bipolar I types are more likely to experience rapid cycling between manic and depression, sometimes occuring within the same day.
Bipolar II disorder is less severe than bipolar I. Individuals suffering from this type of bipolar disorder may experience shifts in mood, but can continue with their lives without much disruption. Rather than dealing with bouts of full-blown mania, type II individuals experience hypomania, a milder form of mania. However, depression episodes are more likely to last longer than hypomanic ones.
Cyclothymia is the mildest form of biploar disorder. While the hypomanic and depression episodes can be problematic, they are not as extreme and dangerous as bipolar I and bipolar II.
Symptoms of Mania and Depression
Most people develop bipolar disorder symptomsin their teens or early 20's, according to Webmd.com. Individuals who have a family history of mental illness also have an increased risk of developing the disorder themselves. Symptoms of a manic episode can include:
- An optimistic, euphoric mood or an angry, irritable one
- An increase in mental and physical energy
- Racing thoughts
- Sleeping less without feeling fatigue
- Risky/Impulsive behaviors such as engaging in random sexual acts, shopping sprees and drug use
- Trouble focusing on a task (work, school, etc.)
Depression symptoms, usually similar to those of clinical depression, can include:
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of guilt, hopelessness or despair
- Suicidal thoughts
- Restlessness or irritability
- Changes in eating/sleeping patterns (eating/sleeping more or less)
Lithium has often been the drug of choice for treating bipolar disorder, according the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Working as a mood stabilizer, the drug may take weeks before it is working fully, and should prescribed at the beginning of the illness rather than later. Lithium is most effective for people who have bipolar I disorder or have a family history of mental illness.
However, lithium is not for everyone. Side effects can include excessive urination, ance, weight gain, hair loss and memory problems. Depakote, an antiseizure medicine, is another effective way to treat bipolar disorder. Also a mood stabilizer, it is better for treating manic episodes than lithium, since the drug's effects occur more quickly.
Antidepressants such as Zoloft and Prozac can sometimes cause manic episodes, and should only be tried after lithium and depakote have been administered first, according to Webmd.com. Regular visits with a psychologist or social worker can also help stabilize a person's mood.
Famous People With Bipolar Disorder
Many celebrities, often artists, writers and actors, deal with bipolar disorder, according to Mentalhealthtoday.com. These include actress Carrie Fisher, actor Robert Downey Jr., dancer Alvin Ailey, director Tim Burton and painter Vincent Van Gogh.