WHAT IS BIPOLAR?

Bipolar Disorder is a condition that is commonly misunderstood; most believe that they, or a loved one, have bipolar because they are always ‘moody’. Although mood swings, such as going from happy to sad, may be one of the symptoms seen, it is far more severe than that.
Bipolar disorder is associated with dramatic moods swings that range from severe depression to manic (impulsive) behavior. Although many sufferers of bipolar mood disorder such as Abraham Lincoln, Earnest Hemingway and current celebrities such as Catherine Zeta Jones have largely benefited from severe mood swings that make them either very energetic and creative when manic or can be filled with extreme sadness and at times lead to suicide.

COMMON SYMPTOMS & BEHAVIOR

The common symptoms of bipolar vary from person to person. For some the manic behaviors cause the most problems, for others the severe depression is the main concern. Here are the most common signs and consequences of these symptoms.

Mania
With this mood a person will:
Be extremely hyperactive
Be impulsive
Have inflated self-esteem
Sleep a lot less
Can be aggressive or easily agitated

Severe Depression
With this mood, people tend to have severe feelings of:

»Sadness »Hopelessness »Suicidal thoughts
»Worthless »Excessive guilt »Being a failure
»Lack of sleep »Sleeping too much »Being “lazy”
»Loss of appetite »Overeating »Easily annoyed by others

DIAGNOSIS
The diagnosis requires a trained expert to fully review the medical and psychiatric history, obtain information from family and friends as well as medical records. A thorough evaluation also requires a set of laboratory tests to rule out medical illnesses such as hormonal disturbances, alcohol and drug abuse, brain trauma, or tumors.

TREATMENT
Many people who live with bipolar disorder seem to either feel or behave better if they seek treatment. Treatment consists of medication, education about the illness and supportive counseling and psychotherapy. The established treatments included mood stabilizers such as lithium, Depakote®, Lamictal®, Abilify® and Seroquel®. However, not all patients tolerate or respond to each of the medications. So, finding an appropriate medication or a combination of medications is needed. This type of evaluation and management takes time and patience.
Given this complexity as well as advances in our knowledge in the understanding of this illness requires that we explore newer treatments, especially newer medications or combinations of medications.