Bipolar DisorderMental illness has plagued human kind for as long as we have been on this earth. The science of psychology has made great strides in past century. The stigma of being mentally ill has begun to fall away and people are finally starting to get the help that they need to recover.
Bipolar disorder is one illness that we have come to more fully understand. Through assistance from a psychiatrist, family and medication a patient with bipolar disorder can enter remission and live a normal life. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder (MDD), affects people of all races, colors, and economic backgrounds. Approximately two million Americans aged 18 and older are affected by this disorder. Typically, patients are diagnosed during adolescence, (Mayo Clinic) but people may be diagnosed at any stage of their life.
This disorder is characterized by cycling from manic (high) to depressed (low). On the downward swing from mania, patients may experience normal moods. Eventually, depression will occur (NMHA). MDD is thought to be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Neurotransmitters act as messengers to our neurons, or nerve cells (NMHA).
Because there is no biological test for this disorder, a physician cannot access risk or diagnose patients easily (Tate). Human genome studies have yet to discover a specific gene which causes this disorder (Tate), but those who suffer from this illness generally have relatives with some form of depression, showing a clear genetic link (NMHA). Symptomology The manic phase is when the patient’s mood is up’. Patients often experience euphoria along with excessive energy, aggressive behavior, and irritability. Hypersexuality and exhibiting poor judgment are two symptoms that can be very worrisome.
(NMHA) Often patients cannot control their behavior and may engage in unprotected sexrisking harm from violence or from sexually transmitted disease. They have a tendency to drive fast and start altercations, often ending with incarceration. Patients often tend to make loose associations and suffer from delusions of grandeur, feeling increased confidence and optimism. Other notable behaviors during the manic phase are changes in dress, hair color, getting tattoos and piercings; the patient exhibits uncharacteristic personality changes.
They may exhibit lack of cleanliness, or wear garish clothes (Butler). Sleep is also disrupted during this period; patients may feel a decreased need for sleep while feeling no fatigue (NMHA). Psychosis may be the most frightening aspect of mania. One sufferer believed that she was a terrorist and was responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2002. She stated that she had to end her life in order for the violence to stop (Fleischauer). Though psychosis is common during mania, it may not happen to all patients (NMHA).
On the opposite side of the mood spectrum is depression. Depression consists of sad moods, sleep disorders, feeling hopeless or worthless, and loss of interest in regular activities. Patients may also experience psychosomatic illnesses, fatigue, reduced or increased appetite and suicidal thoughts (NMHA). Plagued by extreme guilt and sense of worthlessness, some patients feel no choice but to end their lives. In fact, fifty-percent of MDD patients will try to commit suicide; five percent will succeed (Fleischer).
DiagnosisDiagnosing this disorder can be a difficult task. The increased energy and restlessness of mania may be mistaken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In fact, many patients seen by CORE Research, an independent clinical trials company, had been misdiagnosed with ADHD. Upon being given medication for this illness, their symptoms were exacerbated. For many, this is when the correct diagnosis is made.
(Butler). Physicians must first rule out other possible diagnoses. Patients will normally be tested for drugs and their psychosocial stressors accessed. Many drugs, including cocaine and marijuana may be causes of erratic behavior and mood swings. Also, the patient’s thyroid status should be assessed.
A University of North Carolina study has proved that depression is three times more likely for those with hypothyroidism than those with normal thyroid function (Dranov). Psychiatrists must do a full psychiatric evaluation in order to diagnose a patient with bipolar disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) IV is used for diagnosis; the DSM-IV criteria for bipolar disorder must be met in order to diagnose a patient. Tools such as scales are very .