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Mood Disorders

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder was first called “manic-depressive illness” in the late 1800s. During this time, major depression also fell under this name. Karl Leonhard, a German psychiatrist, came up with the term “bipolar disorder” in the 1950s to help distinguish the differences between the two mental health issues. Bipolar refers to the two different poles or the two different sides of the illness (depression and mania). When an individual suffers from bipolar disorder, they have both highs (mania) and lows (depression).


Depressive episodes are usually the first to appear in someone with bipolar disorder. This is why many people are wrongfully treated with having major depression. The younger you are the more likely your first few episodes will be depressive. These episodes bring on feelings of isolation, anxiety, sadness, anger and guilt – just to name a few. In the worst cases people can suffer psychotic episodes where they have delusions or can even begin to hallucinate.

Mania is what sets bipolar apart from major depression. For people with bipolar disorder, manic episodes last for at least a week. In this time they are filled with energy, so much so that they lose focus, only sleep a few hours a day (if any) and generally act erratically. In extreme cases, psychosis can be experienced.

Mixed affective episodes are when the individual experiences mania and depression at the same time. This can be very confusing and frustrating for the individual. An example could be someone who starts crying when they are being really productive, are energized and are focused.


Genetic and environment are the two most likely causes of bipolar disorder. Interpersonal relationships and recent life events have been shown to help bring on bipolar disorder. If the individual has experienced abuse or other sorts of trauma, it has been shown that the likelihood of getting bipolar disorder becomes greater. Reports have shown that between a third to one half of adults with bipolar disorder have experienced abuse or trauma in their lifetimes.

Genetically, bipolar disorder does run in families. Pregnancy is a time when procuring bipolar disorder can be an issue. Being in good health can be a mother’s hope in avoiding the illness. It has been shown that women who have babies later in life increase the risk of their babies having bipolar disorder.


Stress management plays a large role in dealing with bipolar disorder, as stress has been shown to activate manic or depressive episodes in individuals. Therapy and medication are two areas of management that work most effectively on people with bipolar disorder.

Types of effective therapy are: cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, family-focused therapy and psychoeducation.

For medication, mood stabilizers are generally found to be most effective, as bipolar disorder is consider a mood disorder. Lithium is the main one when it comes to effective mood stabilizers in bipolar. Anti-convulsants are also used. These include carbamazepine, lamotrigine, and topiramate. Antipsychotics have been found to be useful for individuals having manic episodes where psychotic behavior is exhibited.


There is a very high rate of misdiagnosis and under-diagnosis in bipolar disorder when compared to other mental health issues. Bipolar disorder can be a very disabling medical condition. At the very worst, the life of a person suffering from bipolar disorder can be at risk, either through their erratic and dangerous behavior when suffering a manic episode or having suicidal ideation when going through a depressive episode.

Recovery does occur if bipolar is treated properly. Many studies have shown that after hospitalization as many as 50% of individuals experienced syndromal recovery in the first couple of weeks and after 2 years, 98% experienced the same. Symptomatic and functional recovery have also occurred in quite reassuring percentages. However, relapse is also quite high when dealing with bipolar disorder.


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