Bipolar Disorder
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What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depression, is a treatable condition that typically causes extreme swings in mood, thought, energy, and behavior. There can often periods of normal mood between episodes. This medical problem is not due to personal weakness or a character flaw.

The mood swings associated with bipolar disorder are different from the average ups and downs experienced by everybody in life. In severe cases, bipolar disorder can be associated with psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, or thought disorganization. These symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. When treated appropriately, people with this condition can lead full and productive lives.

Bipolar disorder affects an estimated 2.6% of...

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop bipolar disorder with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing bipolar disorder. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for bipolar disorder include:

  • Genetic factors— Bipolar disorder can run in families. There is a high likelihood that there is a genetic component to this disorder. Eighty to ninety percent of individuals with bipolar disorder have a relative with either depression or bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is not caused by one specific gene, but rather many genes that act together. ...

Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings—from overly "high" and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again to the high point. Often, there are periods of normal mood patterns in between these highs and lows. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs are called mania, and those of the lows are called depression.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder include:

  • Dramatic mood swings ranging from elated excitability to hopeless despondency
  • Periods of normal mood in between
  • Extreme changes in energy and behavior

Depressive Episode

Symptoms of depressive episodes include:

  • Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or...

Like other mental illnesses, bipolar disorder cannot be identified physiologically—for example, through a blood test or a brain scan. A diagnosis of bipolar disorder is made on the basis of symptoms, course of illness, and, when available, family history. The diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV). Bipolar disorder is often diagnosed based on the following:

  • Initial assessment—Your doctor will ask about your symptoms: when they started, how long they have lasted, how severe they are, whether you have had them before, and if so, whether the symptoms were treated and what treatment was given. You will also be asked about your medical and family history. In addition, your doctor...

There are no guidelines for preventing bipolar disorder because the cause is unknown. Scientists are actively searching for a better understanding of bipolar disorder and ways to prevent it.

Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF)

Address:

820 Davis St., Suite 520
Evanston, IL 60201

Phone:

847-492-8519

Internet Address:

http://www.bpkids.org

Description of Services Provided:

CABF provides articles, journals, families' stories, current research, news, a message board, and support for the families of children and teens with bipolar disorder.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)

Address:

730 N. Franklin St., Suite 501
Chicago, IL 60610-7224

Phone:

1-800-826-3632

Internet Address:

http://www.dbsalliance.org

Description of Services Provided:

DBSA provides information on mood disorders, a list of support groups with chapters, personal stories, programs, publications,...

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