Get Adobe Flash player

Main Menu

(8) Bipolar Disorder

 What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a medical condition of the brain that is characterized by unusual mood shifts and adversely affects a person’s thoughts, feelings, and body.

Also called “mood swings,” these mood shifts differ from normal ups and downs in that they are associated with abnormalities in areas of sleep, appetite, energy, and libido and severely affect a person’s functioning.

The different mood states of bipolar disorder are treatable conditions that do not result from personal or moral weakness.

The best way to characterize the mood swings of bipolar illness from normal ups and downs is to think of the term bipolar disorder in a global, bodily sense, where there is a reduction or activation in physiological activity across a variety of physical systems, including emotion and cognition.

Although stressors can trigger an episode of depression or mania, a stressful life event alone does not cause the condition. Anyone is susceptible to bipolar disorder, although certain individuals are at a higher risk.

Untreated bipolar disorder can evolve into a more chronic condition, with abnormal mood states becoming more and more frequent over time. As with any illness, both morbidity and mortality are associated with both the depressed and manic phases of bipolar disorder.

The morbidity of either condition is the result of the functional impairment often experienced in areas of work, school, and relationships.

The mortality of bipolar disorder is due to death by suicide or accidental death because of the functional impairments (e.g., car accident, illicit drug use, poor nutrition, neglect of health, recklessness).

The majority of people who suffer from bipolar disorder will respond to treatment, thus, it is neither warranted to suffer from depression nor wise to remain manic. Mania often feels very good to the afflicted person, while people around him or her can suffer from the manic-induced attitudes and behaviors.

The lifetime prevalence for bipolar disorder has been deemed to be approximately 1%, although recent studies that look at the epidemiology of all bipolar spectrum conditions find figures closer to 4%.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that in any given one-year period, 5.7 million adults in the United States are suffering from bipolar disorder. Not only does bipolar disorder have a personal cost on individuals and their families, it has a significant cost to society. As many people who are depressed and/or manic do not seek treatment, the cost of untreated mood disorders to society runs into tens of billions of dollars, in part because of decreased productivity at work and overuse of primary health care services.

Many individuals with bipolar II disorder or bipolar spectrum symptoms do not seek treatment but have enough functional impairment that work productivity is reduced.

Leslie’s comments:

I have never experienced full-blown mania but the hypomanic state I sometimes find myself in, in contrast to depression, feels so exhilarating that it is difficult to admit that it would be better to take medication to keep this feeling in check. It is so hard to let go of the pure energy that seems to flow through my system; the feeling that anything can be accomplished. Knowing that this is a symptom of my disorder and must be kept in check is something that I grapple with whenever it occurs.


Physiological pertaining to functions and activities of the living matter, such as organs, tissues, or cells.

Stressors environmental influences on the body and mind that can have gradual adverse effects.

Mania - a condition characterized by elevation of mood (extreme euphoria or irritability) associated with racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep, hyperactivity, and poor impulse control. One episode of mania (in the absence of an ingested substance) is needed to diagnose bipolar disorder.

Morbidity - the impact a particular disease process or illness has on one’s social, academic, or occupational functioning

Mortality - death secondary to illness or disease.

Functional - generally referring to a symptom or condition that has no clearly defined physiological or anatomical cause.

Prevalence - ratio of the frequency of cases in the population in a given time period of a particular event to the number of persons in the population at risk for the event.

Mood disorder - a type of mental illness that affects mood primarily and cognition secondarily.

Mood disorders - predominantly consist of depression and bipolar disorder.



googleplus sm


ar bg ca zh-chs zh-cht cs da nl en et fi fr de el ht he hi hu id it ja ko lv lt no pl pt ro ru sk sl es sv th tr uk

Verse of the Day

Global Map