Bipolar Disorder Overview
- What Are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
- Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder
- What Is the Course of Bipolar Disorder?
- Can Children and Adolescents Have Bipolar Disorder?
- What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
- How Is Bipolar Disorder Treated?
- Do Other Illnesses Co-occur with Bipolar Disorder?
- How Can Individuals and Families Get Help for Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But there is good news: bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.
More than 2 million American adults,or about 1 percent of the population age 18 and older in any given year, have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood.
However, some people have their first symptoms during childhood, and some develop them late in life. It is often not recognized as an illness, and people may suffer for years before it is properly diagnosed and treated. Like diabetes or heart disease, bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that must be carefully managed throughout a person’s life.
Manic-depression distorts moods and thoughts, incites dreadful behaviors, destroys the basis of rational thought, and too often erodes the desire and will to live. It is an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels psychological in the experience of it; an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering and, not infrequently, suicide.
“I am fortunate that I have not died from my illness, fortunate in having received the best medical care available, and fortunate in having the friends, colleagues, and family that I do.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., An Unquiet Mind,1995, p. 6.
(Reprinted with permission from Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.)