Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bipolar Disorder

From time to time I do a series of teaching posts dealing with a particular psychiatric disorder. I encourage any readers to post any comments and questions as we go along and I hope that I can be of use to someone who is interested in knowing more about a particular topic. I have decided to focus for a short time on bipolar disorder which is a common psychiatric problem and one of the most severe, persistent, and often disabling disorders that we treat.

Bipolar disorder used to be referred to as manic depressive illness. It has been described in medical literature as far back as Hippocrates in ancient Greece. It is common, affecting approximately 1% of the population with men and women being equally affected. There have been no race or ethnicity correlations. Bipolar disorder appears to be an equal opportunity disorder. It is chronic, persistent, and associated with a variety of complications including suicide attempts and suicide, child or spousal abuse or other violent behavior, school failure, occupational failure, divorce, and alcoholism and drug addictions. Untreated it tends to worsen over a person's life. It is considered the most severe mental illness after schizophrenia and often associated with lifelong disability. Over 50% of those affected will develop alcoholism and 11% will die by suicide. It's onset is usually in late adolescence or early adulthood although it can present later in some people. It is strongly genetically linked. First degree relatives of someone with bipolar disorder are 7 times more likely than the general population to have bipolar disorder.

So what exactly is bipolar disorder and what are the features of this problem? The hallmark of bipolar disorder is episodes of mania. Bipolar disorder is diagnosed in anyone with a manic episode that is not induced by drugs or alcohol or a medical disorder, whether or not there are episodes of depression. More commonly though the person will suffer from both depressed episodes as well as mania and the majority of the time the patient will be in the depressed phase of the illness. So if mania is the hallmark what exactly is mania? It is much more than an elevated mood but affects appearance, mood, thought content, perceptions, anger or aggression, judgment, and insight Usually impairments in orientation and memory are not present.

I will discuss tomorrow what these multiple changes are.

Thought for the day

"No power of hell or scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand".

The Newsboys


  1. hi i was told that i have bipolar disorder about 4 years ago and i'm not on any med, should i be

  2. If you are having symptoms of depression or mania I recommend you see a psychiatrist for a current evaluation. I cannot advise more than that although I can say that most people with bipolar disorder have recurrent symptoms and are taking medication. Good luck!


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