Bipolar disorder, also commonly referred to as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual and heightened swings in a person’s mood, energy level, and ability to function. The symptoms of bipolar disorder can be severe and therefore, they are quite different from the normal shifts in mood that everyone goes through on a daily basis. The effects of bipolar disorder can result in broken relationships, poor performance at work or school, self-mutilation, and even suicide. However, in most instances, bipolar disorder can be treated and people with this illness can lead normal and productive lives with the help of medication and therapy.
Bipolar disorder is a manic-depressive psychiatric disorder that causes extreme changes in mood and energy levels, which alternate over extended periods of time. These changes, or episodes, are referred to as mania and depression, and occur in cycles throughout life. Between these episodes, about two-thirds of patients are symptom free, with the remaining patients experiencing lingering symptoms. However, a small percentage of patients experience chronic, persistent symptoms despite treatment (Basile, 2005, p. 166).
There are three different forms of bipolar disorder. “ Bipolar disorder type I is the classic form of the illness, involving recurrent cycles of extreme manic and depressive episodes” (Martin, 2006, p. 305). Mixed states, where both manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time, also occur frequently with bipolar I patients. “Bipolar II disorder is characterized by major depressive episodes alternating with episodes of hypomania, a milder form of mania” (Martin, 2006, p. 305). Bipolar depression is many times difficult to distinguish from a major depressive episode.
A third type, rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, involves four or more episodes of illness occurring within a year. Multiple episodes may occur within one week or day. Rapid cycling tends to occur later in the course of the illness and is most common in women. Rapid cycling bipolar disorder occurs in up to 20 percent of bipolar I and II patients and it is very hard to differentiate from mixed states (Martin, 2006, p. 305).
Bipolar disorder affects approximately 3 million American adults each year. Although there are many suffering from the disorder, doctors are still uncertain as to what causes bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder can be found in men and women equally. In most cases, it begins between ages 15 – 25 but it is usually initially misdiagnosed in younger patients. The precise cause is still unknown, but due to the fact that, “two-thirds of bipolar patients have a family history of affective or emotional disorders, researchers have searched for a genetic link to the disorder” (Ford-Martin & Olde, 2005, p.229). Studies have discovered numerous potential genetic connections to the tendency for bipolar disorder. Another possible biological cause under investigation is the existence of an...