cal disorder influencing
mood. Without treatment, people afflicted by this disorder demonstrate
extreme emotional fluctuations throughout their lives. Yet despite (or
perhaps as a result of) the unusual intensity of the bipolar emotional
roller coaster, many people with this disorder have been widely regarded as
leaders and high achievers in a variety of fields of endeavor. A closer
look at bipolar disorder seems to reveal a cycle of extremes from almost
“superhuman” endeavor to utter voids of activity or motivation.
Emotional states associated with this disorder differ in magnitude and
severity when compared to “normal” emotional states.
“Happy” and “sad” do
not seem to be the appropriate terms to describe what a person with manic-
depression feels. A person with this disorder can swing from profound
feelings of elation (mania) to feeling a little less elated (hypomania) to
desperate feelings of hopelessness and helplessness (depression). Usually,
there is a period of “normal” mood in-between peaks and valleys of mania
and depression. However, the exact nature and severity of symptoms differ
from individual to individual. Some people with this disorder experience
more depressive episodes than manias, others experience the reverse. While
some experience a few days of depression or mania, others experience weeks
Typically, depressive feelings tend to last longer than do manic
feelings. And, a person who has this disorder can expect, on the average,
ten episodes of either mania or depression within the span of their lives.
During my search for information on the Web, I found some vivid
descriptions of the experience of bipolar disorder at an NIH web site (5).
These testimonials regarding what it is like to experience the emotional
states of manic-depression helped me understand the intensity of the
disorder from the perspective of those who suffer with it:
DEPRESSION: “I doubt completely my ability to do anything well. It seems as
though my mind has slowed down and burned out to the point of being
..I am haunted…with the total, the desperate
hopelessness of it all.
.. Others say, “It’s only temporary, it will pass,
you will get over it,” but, of course, they haven’t any idea how I feel,
although they are certain they do. If I can’t feel, move, think, or care,
then what on earth is the point?”
HYPOMANIA: “At first when I’m high, it’s tremendous…
ideas are fast…like
shooting stars you follow until brighter ones appear…
disappears, the right words and gestures are suddenly there…uninteresting
people, things, become intensely interesting. Sensuality is pervasive, the
desire to seduce and be seduced is irresistible. Your marrow is infused
with unbelievable feelings of ease, power, well-being, omnipotence,
..you can do anything…but somewhere this changes.
MANIA: “The fast ideas become too fast and there are far too
many…overwhelming confusion replaces clarity…
you stop keeping up with
it-memory goes. Infectious humor ceases to amuse. Your friends become
frightened…everything now is against the grain.
..you are irritable,
angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and trapped.”
Estimates of the prevalence of this disorder within the general public
range from between one and two percent. The disease, as a whole, affects
men and women equally. There are also remarkable rate similarities between
cultures and countries.
Usually, people with this disorder experience their
first episode of depression or mania in their twenties, though the age of
first episode can occur later in life.
There are two separate classifications of bipolar disorder: Bipolar 1 and
Bipolar 2. Bipolar 1 is typified by manic episodes followed by depressive
episodes. Bipolar 2 is typified by hypomanic episodes followed by
depressive episodes. Thus, people with Bipolar 2 never experience an all-
out manic episode. Women are more likely to suffer from the Bipolar 2 form
of the illness.
I found a web site posted by Glaxo Wellcome Research &
Development itemizing symptoms associated with bipolar disorder (1). Some
of the symptoms of mania include:
1. increased energy, activity, restlessness, racing thoughts, and rapid
speech 2. excessive euphoria 3. extreme irritability and distractibility 4.
decreased sleep requirement 5.
uncharacteristically poor judgement 6.
increased sexual drive 7. denial that anything is wrong 8. overspending 9.
risk behavior Some of the symptoms of depression include: 1. persistent
sad, anxious, or empty mood 2.
feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt,
worthlessness, or helplessness 3. loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary
activities, including sex 4. decreased energy, feelings of fatigue 5.
difficulty in concentrating, remembering or making decisions 6. change in
appetite or weight 7. thoughts of death or suicide
There is still debate as to the cause or causes of bipolar disorder.
argue that a virus is the cause of the disorder. However, very little
evidence supports .