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The Truth About Bipolar Disorder

September 29th, 2010 by Doug Bremner

I’ve seen a lot of weird things flying through the internet lately about bipolar disorder so I thought I would try and address the issue. Bipolar disorder was formerly known as manic-depression, and is thought to affect as much as 3% of the US population. Recently there has been a lot of talk about “Bipolar II” but that is more difficult to define as the “mixed mood states” are more subjective and so I will leave them aside here.

In the classic “Bipolar I” there are episodes of mania and depression, but the diagnosis is based on at least one episode of mania. This is defined as an episode of abnormally elevated mood that lasts at least one week or that results in hospitalization, associated with at least three of the following, inflated self esteem or grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, more talkative than usual or pressured speech, and racing thoughts/flight of ideas, distractibility, increased goal directed activity/psychomotor agitation, excessive involvement in pleasurable activities with potentially negative consequences. If the mood is only irritable you need four of the above.

And that these symptoms cause impairment in social or work function and are not caused by drugs or alcohol.

Treatment of choice is lithium, although this drug has side effects and requires monitoring of blood levels. Other drugs pushed more recently include mood stabilizers (Depakote, tegratol, lamotrigine) and antipsychotics, although studies have not shown them to be better. They are mainly pushed as more convenient by drug companies since they are on patent and profitable (unlike lithium).

Many people live their lives without it becomely widely known that they have bipolar disorder. With proper treatment, manic episodes do not necessarily exhibit themselves.

I might add that the public’s view of bipolar disorder is not realistic. These people are not running down the street naked and screaming, and many are leaders in their communities. In addition there seems to be a disproportionate number of people who are highly creative artistically and musically. People with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder also try to hide it at whatever cost, knowing the stigma of society may have an affect on their personal lives and careers.

Note: this post was modified after the original post on September 29, 2010

 
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