What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a serious brain disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy and functioning. It is characterized by episodes of mania and depression that can last from days to months and usually begins in late adolescence, but can begin in early childhood or as late as a person’s 40s or 50s. There is a strong genetic component related to bipolar disorder, however, genetics do not always predict who will develop the disorder. Bipolar disorder is a chronic and generally life-long condition, requiring life-long treatment.
Bipolar Disorder Statistics
• Bipolar disorder affects 2.3 million Americans (1.2 percent of the population).
• Approximately 25 percent of consumers experience onset before age 20.
• Seven out of 10 people with bipolar disorder receive one misdiagnosis.
• 30 percent of people with untreated bipolar disorder commit suicide.
• Delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis contributes to 50 percent of bipolar consumers abusing alcohol or drugs.
• An equal number of men and women develop this illness and it is found among all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes.
• Average length of time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis is 10 years.
• Bipolar disorder accounts for approximately $7.6 billion in direct healthcare costs in the U.S.
• Lifetime costs per consumer range from $12,000 for a person with a single manic episode to more than $600,000 for those with multiple episodes.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, it is a treatable and manageable illness. After accurate diagnosis, most people can be successfully treated. Medication is an essential part of treatment for people with bipolar disorder. Maintenance treatment with a mood stabilizer substantially reduces the number and severity of episodes for most people, although episodes of mania or depression may occur and require additional treatment. In addition, psychosocial therapies are important to help people understand the illness and to develop skills to cope with the stresses that can trigger episodes.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Mood swings that come with bipolar disorder can be mild or they can be severe, ranging from “lows” known as the depressive stage, to “highs” or the manic period. Mood swings can last for hours, days, weeks, or even months.“lows” known as the depressive stage, to “highs” or the manic period. Mood swings can last for hours, days, weeks, or even months.
Symptoms of Mania – The “Highs” of Bipolar Disorder o Increased physical and mental activity and energy o Heightened mood, exaggerated optimism and self-confidence o Excessive irritability and aggressive behavior o Decreased need for sleep without experiencing fatigue o Grandiose delusions, inflated sense of self-importance o Increased talking and more rapid speech than normal o Impulsiveness, poor judgment and distractibility o Reckless behavior o Delusions and hallucinations
Symptoms of Depression – The “Lows” of Bipolar Disorder o Decreased activity and energy o Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells o Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
o Increased feelings of worry and anxiety o Feelings of guilt or hopelessness o Inability to concentrate or make decisions o Fewer thoughts than usual and slowed thinking o Social withdrawal
o Unexplained aches or pains o Use of chemical substances or alcohol o Less talking and slowed speech
Types of Bipolar Disorder
Some symptom variations of bipolar disorder are not medically significant, while others are important enough to be classified as specific types that may be treated in very different ways.
• Bipolar I is characterized by one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes and, often, one or more major depressive episodes. Episodes may last for several weeks or months, alternating with intense symptoms of mania that may last just as long. Between episodes, there may be periods of normal functioning. Bipolar I disorder is the most severe form of the illness.
• People diagnosed with Bipolar II have one or more major depressive episodes accompanied by at least one hypomanic episode. (A hypomanic episode is a distinct period of abnormal and persistently elevated or irritable mood that lasts for at least several days.) Less extreme than Bipolar I; Bipolar II is often characterized by impaired social behaviors and occupational challenges.
• Consumers who experience Mixed States (also called mixed mania) experience the symptoms of mania and depression at the same time. Typically, someone with a mixed state will describe feeling activated and “revved up,” but also full of anguish and despair
• Other subtypes are Cyclothymia, characterized by numerous, mild manic episodes and often less severe depressive episodes for at least two or more years with no major depressive or manic episode; and Bipolar Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) which includes disorders with bipolar features that do not meet criteria for any of the above specified disorders.