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Bipolar Affective Disorder

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Bipolar Affective Disorder

Bipolar affective disorder has been a mystery to scientists and physicians since the sixteenth century. The artist Vincent Van Gogh is the first documented case of the disorder, but since then, we have not learned much more about what causes the disease or even a cure for sufferers. The biggest hindrance to scientists is that there are so many symptoms, and they aren't sure what the source is. Right now, approximately one percent of the population (three million people) in the United States is victim of the Bipolar disorder. ?As of now, scientists have learned almost all that they know just from watching and interviewing their patients,? and although a cure is needed for sufferers to lead normal lives, no true cure has come along yet (Ramirez. 15).
Bipolar disorder typically most often begins during adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. It is often not recognized as an illness and people who have it may suffer needlessly for years or even decades. This particular disorder is characterized by a variety of symptoms that can be broken into manic (excessive highs) and depressive (deep hopelessness) episodes with periods of normal mood in between. The manic episodes are characterized by discrete periods of: increased energy, activity, and restlessness; racing thoughts; rapid talking; excessive ?high? or euphoric feelings; extreme irritability and distractibility; decreased need for sleep; unrealistic beliefs in one's abilities and powers; uncharacteristically poor judgment; a
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sustained period of behavior that is different than usual; increased sexual drive; abuse of drugs (particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications); provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior; and denial that anything is wrong (Griswald 7).
?Bipolar disorder is diagnosed if an episode of mania occurs whether depression has been diagnosed or not, but most commonly, individuals with manic episodes experience a period of depression? (Jamison 14). The depressive episodes are characterized by intense feelings of sadness and despair that can eventually grow into feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Some of the symptoms of a depressive episode include: discrete periods of persistent sad, anxious, or empty feelings; mood swings; feelings of hopelessness or pessimism; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness; loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities; decreased energy; a feeling of fatigue; difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; restlessness or irritability; sleep disturbances; loss of appetite and weight, or weight gain; chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical disease; anhedonia, psycomoter retardation; near inability to move; and thoughts of death or suicide (Griswald 8).
When both manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time it is called a mixed episode. Those afflicted are at a special risk because there is a combination of hopelessness, agitation, and anxiety that makes them feel as if they ?could jump out of their skin?(Ramirez 17). Up to 50% of all patients with mania have a mixture of depressed moods. Patients report feeling dysphoric, depressed, and unhappy; yet, they exhibit the energy associated with mania. Rapid cycling mania is another presentation of bipolar disorder. Mania may be present with four or more distinct episodes within a 12-month period. ?There is now evidence to suggest that

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occasionally, rapid cycling may be a transient manifestation of the bipolar disorder? (Hochman 165).
It may be helpful to think of the various mood states in manic-depressive illness as a spectrum or continuous range. At one end is severe depression, which shades into moderate depression; then come mild and brief mood disturbances that many people call 'the blues?; then normal mood; then hypomania (a mild form of mania); and then mania. Some people with untreated bipolar disorder have repeated depressions. In the other extreme, mania may be the
main problem and depression may occur only infrequently. In fact, symptoms of mania and depression may be mixed together in a single ?mixed? bipolar state (Ramirez 17).
Many times bipolar patients report that the depressions are longer and increase in frequency as the individual ages. The stages of the bipolar disorder most often begin in patients between the ages of 18 and 24 years of age (Griswald 1), with a second peak in the mid-forties of women. Most individuals with the disorder experience their first mood episode in their 20's. However, manic-depression quite often strikes teenagers and has been diagnosed in children under 12. A typical bipolar patient may experience eight to ten episodes in their lifetime. These episodes are life altering, and prohibit those afflicted with the disorder from leading normal lives. The National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (MDMDA) has reported that the bipolar disorder can create substantial developmental delays, marital and family disruptions, occupational setbacks, and financial disasters (Griswald 1). Even more seriously, the risk of suicide among persons afflicted with bipolar illness is unrealistically high. In the past, as many as 1 in 5 people with the bipolar disorder have committed suicide in the United States. ?This devastating disease causes disruptions of families, loss of jobs and millions of dollars in cost to
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society? (Fieve 58). Therefore, scientists are desperately searching for ways to alleviate symptoms, or even find a cure.
?A variety of medications are ...

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