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Bipolar Disorder: What do I need to know? 

Bipolar I disorder: Help is on the way!

bipolar disorder and manic depressionBipolar I Disorder is the diagnostic category for a constellation of symptoms that includes at least one episode of major depression and one or more manic episodes. At an earlier point in time, bipolar I disorder was referred to commonly by the diagnostic name of manic depression. It may be distinguished from major depressive disorder in several ways. While major depression has a much higher predominance of females than males, bipolar disorder is fairly evenly distributed among both sexes and usually has an age of onset during adolescence and early adulthood. Bipolar disorder has a prevalence rate of approximately 1% of the population. Also, it is almost always recurrent and may manifest a certain amount of symptom progression.


Bipolar II Disorders are divided into Single Manic Episodes and recurrent type of episodes. Most individuals with a Single Manic Episode however (approximately 90 %- 95 %), go on to have additional manic or Major Depressive Episodes. It is therefore imperative that when an individual has a Single Manic Episode, that the individual and family are made aware that additional episodes are almost inevitable, and must seek immediate treatment. While many are aware of the symptoms of depression, including low mood, lack of interest in normal activities, sleep problems, psychomotor retardation or agitation, feelings of helplessness or/or hopelessness and unremitting guilt, most are not really aware of symptoms of mania. Manic episodes include hyper-talkativeness, very high-energy level, inflated self-esteem and grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, flight of ideas, high level of distractibility, increased goal direct activity or psychomotor agitation, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences. This abnormal mood usually persists for at least one week and is usually accompanied by a persistently elevated, expansive or irritable mood. Frequently this condition can be quite debilitating, resulting in severe impairment in their usual occupational and social functioning. Finally, the symptoms must not be attributable to any physiological conditions such as substance abuse, medication or any other treatment or general medical condition (e.g. hypothyroidism).

Many individuals will not seek treatment during a manic episodes, because of the feeling of elation which is associated with this mood disturbance. However treatment is absolutely necessary in stabilizing the mood. In most cases, medication is required, and includes such mood stabilizers as Lithium, Tegretol and Depakote. Also psychotherapy can be very beneficial in providing stress management skills, family therapy, psychoeducation and assistance in medication compliance.

Finally, individuals with Bipolar I Disorder may be very impulsive and erratic, and have a high incidence of problems with alcohol and drug abuse, problems with the law and a much higher than average level of suicidal behavior. Always do everything in your power to assist and facilitate treatment for any individual with a bipolar disorder.

Additional information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist (Health Psychology) 

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