Describing something as bipolar means it has, or relates to, two opposing poles. When the context is the description of a mood state, these two opposing poles refer to the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, mania and depression.
Previously known as manic-depression, Bipolar Disorder is characterized by extreme shifts in mood, energy, and behaviour. The depression phase brings with it lethargy, a loss of interest and enjoyment in things previously enjoyed, and persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Mania similarly leads to changes in mood - feeling "high", excitable and irritable - as well as changes in behaviour: sleeplessness, restlessness, racing speech and an increase in impulsive behaviour.
The spectrum of Bipolar Disorder includes a number of different types, distinguished by their pattern and severity. The 3 main types are:
- Bipolar I Disorder - Bipolar I is characterized by manic or mixed manic and depressive episodes that last at least seven days, or by manic symptoms that are severe enough to warrant hospitalization.
- Bipolar II Disorder - The depressive episodes are similar to those seen in Bipolar I, but in Bipolar II manic episodes are not as grave and do not cause a loss of judgment or break with reality.
- Cyclothymic Disorder - This is a low grade and chronic form of bipolar disorder. People with cyclothymia have experienced episodes of hypomania as well as cycles of mild depression for at least 2 years, but at levels that do not meet the diagnostic thresholds for Bipolar I or II.
What is the treatment for Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar Disorder treatment most often includes mood stabilizing medication, although the process of finding the right medication and the right dosage can sometimes be lengthy and frustrating. Adjunct therapy is helpful in addressing the emotions that go along with having a mood disorder, and offering support, accountability, and problem solving on the path to recovery.
There is no worse sorrow than remembering happiness in the day of sorrow.
- Alfred de Musset
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