Feb
06

Facts about Depression and Bipolar Disorder.

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Facts About Bipolar Disorder
What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a treatable medical illness marked by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy, and behavior. It is also known as manic-depression because a person’s mood can alternate between symptoms of mania and depression.

These changes in mood or “mood swings” can last for hours, days, weeks, or even months. Unlike people with clinical depression (the “lows”), most people who have bipolar disorder talk about experiencing “highs” and “lows.”

Abnormalities in brain biochemistry and in the structure and/or activity of certain brain circuits are responsible for the extreme shifts in mood, thought, energy, and functioning that characterize bipolar disorder.

A diagnosis of bipolar I disorder is made when a person has experienced at least one episode of severe mania; a diagnosis of bipolar II disorder is made when a person has experienced at least one hypomanic episode but has not met the criteria for a full manic episode. Cyclothymic disorder, a milder illness, is diagnosed when a person experiences, over the course of at least two years (one year for adolescents and children), numerous periods with hypomanic symptoms and numerous periods with depressive symptoms that are not severe enough to meet criteria for major manic or depressive episodes.

Bipolar disorder with rapid cycling is defined as four or more episodes of illness within a 12-month period. This form of the illness tends to be more resistant to treatment than non-rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.

Depression and bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) are real,
treatable illnesses that affect the brain. They can’t be overcome by “snapping
out of it.” Asking someone to “think positive” is like asking someone
with diabetes to change his or her blood sugar level by thinking about it.

People with mood disorders can feel better with the right treatment.
Seeking treatment is a smart choice that takes strength. Mood disorders
are not flaws or weaknesses.

Seeking treatment means a person has the
courage to look for a way to feel better.

Talk therapy has been tested clinically and found to be effective.
In some cases it works as well as medication. Good talk therapy helps
change behaviors that can make a person’s moods less stable.

When properly prescribed and used, medications are not addictive and
do not change a person’s true personality. Medications help a person’s
mood become more stable and even. They are not “happy pills” and
should not be compared to street drugs. They do not cloud a person’s
judgment or give a false sense of courage.

When correctly diagnosed and treated, a person with depression or
bipolar disorder can live a stable and healthy life. Millions of people
already do.

Severe mood changes in young children or older adults should be taken
seriously. Recent studies have shown that children may be affected by
mood disorders as young as infancy. Older adults are also at a high risk
for depression.

Younger and older people should be given complete
physical examinations and treated according to their individual needs.

Research shows that people with mental illness do not commit significantly
more violent acts than people in the general population. However,
people with mental illness are twice as likely to be victims of violence.

People who have been treated for mood disorders can parent as well
as anyone else. They are also more likely to recognize symptoms, treat
their children early and understand their children’s struggles if their
children have mood disorders.

People with mood disorders can and do hold positions of authority
everywhere. When properly treated, a person’s mood disorder does
not have to affect job performance.

Suicide is a significant problem that needs to be addressed. Suicides
outnumber homicides in the U.S. They are the 11th leading cause of
death; homicide ranks 15th. Each year, over 30,000 people in the U.S.
take their own lives. More than 90% of these people are believed to
have had a diagnosable mental disorder

*For more: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance • www.DBSAlliance.org

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