Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depression, is a mental illness characterized by wide mood swings from mania (euphoric/irritable states) to depression (hopeless, unhappy states). A person with bipolar disorder usually returns to a normal mood in between episodes of mania and/or depression.

Some people with bipolar disorder experience something known as a mixed episode. People in mixed states alternate between mania and depression on a daily basis for at least a week. Roughly, a third of people with bipolar disorder experience at least one mixed episode during the course of their illness.

Cyclothymia is similar to bipolar disorder since it involves fluctuations between depression and mania.

It is often times treated with mood stabilizers.

Depakote (valproic acid)
Tegretol (arbamazepine)
Dilantin (phenytoin)
This is a list of some of the most common symptoms of manic depression or bipolar disorder. People in my life had always occasionally suggested that I might be manic deppresive but I would generally deny it. After seeing this list of symptoms and reading a little more on the subject I just started laughing. I fit every single one of them. I have a handle on my depression and mania now so it's not that big of a problem for me. However, there are others out there, friends of mine even, who fit these symptoms and should probably seek help because they cannot handle it as I can. I would suggest that anyone who fit these symptoms seek help, I did and I feel much better.

Some people can fight it by themselves, others need medication. Whatever you do, DO NOT let a doctor put you on paxil for it, trust me on that. It will do more damage than good in most cases. Make sure your doctor really looks into it before they decided to give you paxil it has horrible emotional side effects that can be worse than the depression.

Symptoms of Mania:

Increased energy, activity, restlessness, racing thoughts and rapid speech
Excessive euphoria
Extreme irritability and distractibility
Decreased sleep requirement
Uncharacteristically poor judgment
Increased sexual drive
Denial that anything is wrong

Symptoms of Depression:

Persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities, including sex
Decreased energy, feelings of fatigue
Difficulty in concentrating, remembering or making decisions
Change in appetite or weight
Thoughts of death or suicide

Please beware of medical jargon in the following.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is also referred to as manic depression. The names are interchangeable. It is characterized by extremes in mood, ranging from depression to mania. Many doctors believe that the illness can be hereditary. Symptoms vary widely from person to person.

The instances of depression and mania can vary in length and, for lack of a better word, strength.

Depression can include symptoms of anything from decreased energy and activity, to extreme helplessness and suicidal thoughts and behaviour. Mania can include symptoms ranging from mild irritability, to psychosis; homicidal tendencies are rare, but not unheard-of. Hypomania occurs frequently, which is a sudden onset of energy, irritability, and impulsive behaviour.

There is no definite trigger for bipolar disorder. Family history, stress, and drug and alcohol abuse can trigger a bout of depression (or mania), but often the trigger is not clear in any way.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder consists of a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Possible medications include the following:

Lithium: Lithium Carbonate is used to jolt a patient out of their depressed or manic state. It enhances neural uptake of norepinephrine and serotonin levels in the brain, and this can cause lethargy. Lithium does not react negatively with many other drugs, although it does seem to produce slight potentation of Central Nervous System depressants. It is not given to those with kidney or liver problems. Some patients have noted that lithium can cause a complete lack of emotion.

Prozac: Fluoxetine hydrochloride is the most widely prescribed antidepressant in the United States and Canada. Please see the prozac node for possible side effects. Prozac is considered somewhat of a designer drug, but its positive effects should not be overlooked. Most patients note that Prozac (or any derivatives of it) takes the edge off the episode they are currently in. For example, a patient who takes Prozac may move from being extremely suicidal to somewhat anxious.

Zoloft: Sertraline is a wonderful drug, which has very little side effects, aside from the most common, which is diarrhea. The main reasons patients take this drug is because of its few side effects, and the fast results. Zoloft generally reduces the extremes of mania and depression. In rare cases, Zoloft can cause liver damage.

Bipolar disorder can stem from, or also carry along with it symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and even Attention Deficit Disorder.

Please see Demeter's writeup in the manic depression node for any other information I might not have included. Additionally, one could do worse than to have a look at Mitzi's excellent writeup Some tips on coping with bipolar disorder

I'm not going to give you a number-by-number medical analysis of Bipolar Mood Disorder, because I am not expert in the field. I am sixteen and it would be pretentious of me to consider myself an expert on anything. I am going to give you an account based on my experiences living with Bipolar since early adolescence.

I have been diagnosed with Cyclothymia, rapid-cycling bipolar, which can mean very little time between mood swings - say, a few hours, compared to 'classic' bipolar, in which manic and depressed episodes can last weeks. Being afflicted with this mental disorder, i would liken it to an unstoppable roller coaster, as I'm sure other people suffering it might as well.

Being 'manic' in the old days would lead people to believe you to be posessed by devils, and sometimes it does feel like you are. It's also called a 'high' because that is what you feel. Beyond high, somewhat euphoric. People in this state lose insight into what is really happening and refuse treatment because mania feels good to them. Delusions of some higher worth can set in, eg. believing you were sent by a deity to save the human race. I've never witnessed/experienced this though, although one of my bipolar friends was once utterly convinced she could win medals in every olympic event. People also become dramatically impulsive; Selling everything they own and moving to another state, losing all their money in the process, doesn't seem such a bad idea when you're manic.

Unfortuneatly, mania can bring with it a PMS-like instability. Raging tantrums. Breaking stuff. Snapping at people aggressively is all to easy and sometimes you are unaware of just quite how loud you're yelling. When someone merely tries to engage conversation with you, your reflexaction is to snarl some incensed retort.

In the same way as the word 'manic' is an understatement to those who have really experienced it, as is depression. Hitting a depression pit is the most ungodly feeling of hopelessness, and you feel like you'll never get out. Your emotions basically flatline. You're empty. Nothing feels good. Nothing satisfies anymore. To simply feel alive again, some bipolar sufferers self-harm, or cut themselves until they bleed. It is believed, psychologically, this brings pain to the outside, and makes it visible. Physically, injuring oneself releases endorphins, the brain's equivalent of a painkiller, making the self-harmer feel better. You may think this is stupid, hurting oneself to feel better, but the physical pain is not what one cares about, it's the chronic pyschological pain that runs much deeper, and requires an outlet.

Keeping a depressed bipolar away from sharp objects is hopeless, because we're a resourceful lot. I've seen people cut themselves with plastic spoons.

That same friend who was going to win every olympic event comes in again here; they died from liver failure not a short while later. The cause, a monstrous overdose on the very medication meant to help her, depakote (epillim, valproate, valproic acid); also used in the treatment for epileptic seizures.

I've noticed the higher someone is while manic, the harder they fall. The way Hollywood and other media has painted Manic Depression, it seems like a fun ride, with crazy, yet entertaining, people. Don't listen to Girl Interrupted. This imbalance of brain chemicals has a lot of broken lives to account for.

Mood swings - angry, loving, bitter, depressed, euphoric - are the hallmark symptom, but also occur frequently in many other mental disorders; often making it hard to diagnose, especially from schizophrenia, with which it also shares delusions of grandeur, paranoia, anxiety, and in some cases, psychosis; hallucinations and bizzare delusions (believing things like your mind is being controlled by an outside force- these beliefs cannot be influenced by culture or religion to be delusional). It is believed that manic depressives are more likely to commit violent crimes, but this is probably more influenced by personality disorders such as Antisocial Personality Disorder occuring alongside Manic Depression.

Because I'm Not Qualified To Know Anything, my opinion doesn't count, but my personal beliefs on bipolar are a lack of control over the hormones serotonin and dopamine, which control the moods, in the brain. The brain tries to make up for too many or too little of these chemicals, but somewhere the wiring is wrong, and it overcompensates, leading on a vicious cycle of updownupdownupdownupdown. Many manic depressives may also abuse drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines, further damaging this delicate process, as drugs intefere very much with the amount of serotonin and dopamine produced, and can damage the receptors of the chemicals.

It is a tragic consequence that those unable to be stabilised with medication may turn to suicide as a way out. When you're on a roller coaster that never stops, sometimes the only way out is to jump.

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