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Bipolar disorder is also called "manic depressive disorder" and is an condition in which there are mood swings that vacillate between elevated mood or mania and depressive mood or depression. The changes can be extremely abrupt or can be gradual.

Bipolar disorder can affect both men and women and they are equally affected. The onset of the disease is between 15 and 25 years of age. It has an unknown etiology. If you have bipolar disorder, you have one of several types. Type I disorder happens if there is at least one manic episode mixed with a period of major depression at least one time. In type II disorder, there has been no major manic episodes in the past but there are one or more hypomanic episodes that alternate with depression. In cyclothymia, there are less severe elevations in mood associated with less severe depressive states.

Things that can trigger a manic or depressive episode include medications, like steroids or antidepressants, periods of sleeplessness, life changes such as childbirth and recreational drug use.

Symptoms of mania can last for several days or for several months. The major symptoms include being irritated or agitated, having an inflated self esteem, having little need for sleep, being elevated in mood, being over-involved in activities, exhibiting reckless behaviour, having poor control of one's temper and being easily distractible. In hypomanic episodes, the symptoms are the same but of a lesser intensity.

During the depression phase of bipolar disorder, you'll see the following symptoms: low mood every day, difficulty concentrating, problems with too much or too little eating, feeling fatigue or listlessness, having a poor self esteem, having worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness, having persistent sadness, having problems sleeping, having persistent thoughts of suicide or death, withdrawing from previously enjoyed activities, and withdrawing from friends and relatives.

Suicide is of a high risk in patients with bipolar disorder. This can happen in either phase of the disorder. Alcohol abuse and other substance abuse are common as well. You can have a mixed state, in which there is evidence of both depression and mania coexisting simultaneously.

Doctors can do a history and physical, including a psychological examination in order to determine whether or not there is bipolar disorder present. They can observe your mood and behaviors while you are in the office or hospital. You can tell the doctor about mood swings and the doctor can do testing of the thyroid gland to make sure the thyroid is not the cause of the symptoms. Doctors use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders to identify those who have the criteria for bipolar disorder.

The treatment of bipolar disorder is usually medications to control mood swings, mania and depression. This includes the use of lithium to control manic spells, and anti-seizure medications, such as carbamazepine and valproic acid. Antidepressants are used to control depressive symptoms. The most common antidepressant medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Often both anti-manic and antidepressive medications must be used together. Antipsychotic drugs must be used to prevent hallucinations or delusions and anti-anxiety drugs in the form of benzodiazepines are used to prevent anxiety symptoms and to stabilize the mood.

Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT can be used to treat the manic or depressive phases of this disorder. This is especially true if the medications don't seem to be helping. ECT uses a current of electricity to send the electricity into the brain in order to improve thinking and mood.

Hospitalization for manic phases or depressive phases may be necessary if the patient isn't safe due to suicidal ideation or inability to care for oneself. Support groups and therapy can help the patient learn how to better cope with the disease, which is usually life-long.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Bipolar Disorder solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Bipolar Disorder solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here