Wednesday, March 5, 2008
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a medical condition that affects the brain, giving you periods of extremely high mood and periods of very low mood.
Highs are called "mania" and lows are called "depression". You will often still hear bipolar disorder called by its old name, "manic depression".
Everybody has good days and bad days; happy moods and sad moods. In bipolar disorder, these feelings become so extreme that you cannot cope without treatment.
The word "bipolar" means patients keep switching between two opposite "poles" of extreme mood. Think of mood as a range of feelings and emotions, with depression at one end and mania at the other.
How do you get bipolar disorder?
Experts today believe that bipolar disorder is caused by several different things, including a chemical imbalance in your brain.
Bipolar disorder also seems to run in families. About two thirds of people with bipolar disorder have a close relative who also has the disorder, or who suffers from severe depression.
How serious is bipolar disorder?
Without effective treatment, bipolar disorder can have tragic outcomes. About 25% of people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide at some time during their lives.
However, many people with bipolar disorder are not prevented from achieving their goals in life. In fact, throughout history, some of the most influential people in art, literature, business, and politics have had bipolar disorder. With proper treatment, you can still enjoy good relationships, rewarding careers and stability.
Bipolar disorder can take its toll on friends and family, just like other serious illnesses. The patient's symptoms can cause many problems in their relationships with other people. Loved ones can often feel exasperated, angry, useless and even depressed. It is important for friends and family to look after themselves as well as the patient.
How long does bipolar disorder last?
If you have got bipolar disorder, you might have to be on medication for the rest of your life. But with a good treatment plan, people with bipolar disorder can live full and productive lives.
How is bipolar disorder treated?
People with bipolar disorder need various types of treatment and support to deal with it. They have to take an active role in understanding and coping with bipolar disorder.
Nobody has discovered a cure for bipolar disorder, but we use medications to treat some of the symptoms. Many people who have bipolar disorder live full and productive lives. Yet, tragically, more than one in ten people with bipolar disorder try to commit suicide at some point.
It is incredibly important for people with bipolar disorder to take their medication exactly as it was prescribed. Support, love, patience and understanding from family and friends is also a vital part of treatment.