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Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)

Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression, Symptoms and Causes

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is classified as a type of affective disorder or mood disorder that goes beyond ordinary ups and downs. It is a serious medical condition and important health concern in this country. Manic depression is characterized by periodic episodes of extreme elation, elevated mood or irritability (also called mania) countered by periodic, classic depressive symptoms.

Types of bipolar disorder:

  • People with bipolar disorder type I have had at least one fully manic episode with periods of major depression. In the past, bipolar disorder type I was called manic depression.
  • People with bipolar disorder type II have never experienced full-fledged mania. Instead, they experience periods of hypomania (elevated levels of energy and impulsiveness that are not as extreme as the symptoms of mania). These hypomanic periods alternate with episodes of depression.
  • A mild form of bipolar disorder called cyclothymia involves less severe mood swings with alternating periods of hypomania and mild depression. People with bipolar disorder type II or cyclothymia may be misdiagnosed as having depression alone.

Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression Symptoms:

For a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (manic depression) to be made, an individual must exhibit both depressive and manic symptoms to a varying degree, depending upon the type (I, II, or cyclothymia) of the disorder.

Depressive symptoms may include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
  • Loss of interest in activities once previously enjoyed
  • Excessive crying
  • Increased restlessness and irritability
  • Decreased ability to concentrate and make decisions
  • Decreased energy
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Increased feelings of guilt, helplessness and/or hopelessness
  • Weight and/or appetite changes due to overeating or undereating
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Social withdrawal
  • Physical symptoms unrealized by standard treatment (eg, chronic pain, headaches)

Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression symptoms may include:

  • Overly inflated self-esteem
  • Decreased need for rest and sleep
  • Increased distractibility and irritability
  • Increased physical agitation
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that may result in painful consequence; this may include provocative, aggressive or destructive behavior
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Excessive "high" or euphoric feelings
  • Increased sex drive
  • Increased energy level
  • Uncharacteristically poor judgment
  • Increased denial

Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression Causes:

Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally. It usually appears between ages 15 - 25. The exact cause is unknown, but it occurs more often in relatives of people with bipolar disorder.

In most people with bipolar disorder, there is no clear cause for the manic or depressive episodes. The following may trigger a manic episode in people who are vulnerable to the illness:

  • Life changes such as childbirth
  • Medications such as antidepressants or steroids
  • Periods of sleeplessness
  • Recreational drug use