An estimated 5.7 million people in the United States are affected by bipolar disorder, often referred to as manic depression. It is a major mood disorder where the person experiences episodes of both severe depression and mania. This illness is both very real and very serious. It is believed to be caused by the imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Everyone experiences up and down moods, but a person with this disorder has peaks and valleys much more severe than the average person.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by shifts in energy, behavior and mood which are extreme, which results with what is described as manic behavior at one end of the spectrum and severe depression on the other. These are not just short-term mood swings; these episodes can last for days, weeks, or months.
The manic episode is when the person can experience extreme highs in energy, possibly requiring little sleep or rest. Possible dangerous and erratic behavior is exhibited as well as a great lack of judgment. Some of the telltale signs are behaviors that include binging on food, alcohol or drugs, spending sprees and even sexual promiscuity. Racing thoughts, increased irritability and possible delusions of grandeur are some of the things a person in a manic state might experience.
At the other end of the spectrum, the depression can be similar to regular clinical depression. This is when the person lacks energy and even the motivation to get out of bed at all. Overwhelming feelings of loneliness and hopelessness are characteristic of this phase. Occasionally the sufferer is apathetic or uncaring about activities or causes they may have usually championed.
Usually, the periods of depression are much more pronounced than the periods of mania, and sometimes the manic phases are so mild as to go unnoticed. It is possible for the subject to experience a break with reality where thinking is affected while in either phase. Bipolar disorder is severe enough that it affects most parts of a person’s life; the mental and emotional as well as the physical. It has been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, and migraines. With the lack of judgment that is prevalent with bipolar disorder, often abuse of alcohol and drugs during either phase of the disease will worsen the symptoms.
Because of its severity, only a qualified mental health professional can diagnose and prescribe treatment for this disorder. Exercise, healthy food choices and a nurturing environment are all part of the treatment plan that a doctor will prescribe. With proper treatment, bipolar disorder can be brought under control and the sufferer can live a normal life.