Bipolar disorder is perhaps one of the most tragic mood disorders, because it virtually taunts with the affected persons mind. Bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive disorder) is a mental condition in which the person alternates between feelings of mania and depression (Kalat, 614). These feelings are extreme opposites, and thus create tremendous mental and physical stress on the person affected. This unfortunate disorder affects one to two percent of the adult population. Before bipolar disorder can be fully understood, the two main mood stages must first be identified. During an endless bout with bipolar disorder, a person experiences many stages of mania and depression.

Different symptoms of mania include an increase in energy or activity, rapid speech, excessive excitement, extreme irritability and distractibility, a decrease in the amount of sleep needed, uncommonly poor judgment, an increased sex drive, denial, overspending, and high-risk behavior. All of these symptoms may not be prevalent in a bipolar disorder patient; however, the more severe the case, the more likely all symptoms may occur. A depressed episode includes the opposite characteristics, including a persistent sad or empty feeling, decreased energy, loss of interest in activities normally enjoyed (sex), difficulty concentrating, change in appetite or body weight, and thoughts of suicide. There are also two less-severe stages a bipolar disorder patient may go through, which are mixed episodes and hypomanic episodes. A mixed episode contains characteristics of both manic and depressive stages occurring at the same time. Mixed episodes are the most difficult to treat, because different types of medicines are necessary for different episodes.

A hypomanic episode is characterized by less severe less constraining symptoms of mania. Doctors often overlook hypomanic episodes, which too often leads to misdiagnosing. When a person experiences a combination of four episodes within a year, the person is considered to be going through rapid cycling. There are two types of bipolar disorder. The first is considered the classic, more popular form, and is considered Bipolar I Disorder. This version of the disorder is when the person goes through full manic or mixed episode, and usually also goes through episodes of complete depression.

The second type of the disorder is Bipolar II Disorder, in which the person has had at least one hypomanic episode, and at least one complete depressive episode, yet never goes through a full manic or a full mixed episode. Treating a patient of bipolar disorder takes a while. Currently, doctors prescribe three different types of medication to bipolar patients: mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants. Often times, patients need combinations of the drugs, which take a while to decipher, so it often takes about a month to find the correct prescription for someone. Mood stabilizers are mainly used for episodes of mania or hypomania, and sometimes for mixed episodes.

Mood stabilizers are also utilized to suppress future manic breakouts. Lithium pills are a common medicine for the suppression of manic episodes, however it can be considered dangerous. If too little a dosage is taken, it is ineffective, and if too large a dosage is taken, blurry vision and nausea occurs. If used correctly Lithium pills can be very effective, and can fight off manic episodes for years at a time. Antipsychotic drugs are used to suppress severe manic breakouts, and act quickly. Antidepressants, not surprisingly, are prescribed during the depressive stage of bipolar disorder.

Antidepressants include SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors), Tricyclics, MAO Is (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors), and Bupropoin. Usually, when an antidepressant in prescribed, a mood stabilizer is prescribed along with it, to prevent a possible sway from the depressive stage straight to a manic stage. If the prescribed medications do not work, and the case is severe, sometimes ECT (Electro convulsive Therapy) is used to shock the patient out of his or her depressed stage. Currently, scientists and psychotherapists are trying to determine how bipolar disorder is caused.

Studies have determined that bipolar can run in families, so the disorder is genetic. Unfortunately, though, doctors have not yet found any other causes. Psychotherapists often do psychoanalyses of bipolar patients, to find if anything that occurred earlier in their lives led to the disorder, but no concrete evidence has yet been found. Fagan, James W. Introduction to Psychology. California: Wadsworth, 1999.

Long, Phillip W. Bipolar Disorder. Home page. Oct. 1994. web What is Bipolar Disorder Home page.

web >.