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Essay/Term paper: Explaining a concept

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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Bipolar Disorder, often called Manic Depression, is a medical condition that

involves severe mood swings in an individual. It is a lifetime condition that needs to be

treated to keep it in remission (APA). It is not just a mental illness, but a medical disease

involving the brain.


The disease progresses as the years pass and the frequency of mood changing

episodes becomes more frequent (MHN). Bipolar Disorder involves depressive and manic

phases. With the symptoms presented, clinicians often misdiagnose patients as

schizophrenics (Shalala).


Bipolar affects an individual"s thoughts, feelings, health, behavior and ability to

function. The disease is not a result of a weak personality, as many people believe.

Instead, it is a medical condition where there is an instability in the transmission of nerve

impulses of the brain (neurotransmitters) that signal appropriate moods (NDMDA). The

bipolar patient responds with inappropriate mood swings independent of what is going on

around them (APA). Bipolar compromises the judgment of those that suffer from it.

Some even experience hallucinations (Shalala).


The disease of bipolar itself is classified as Type I and Type II. Type I are those

that have had prior episodes of mania. One percent of Americans are diagnosed with this.

Type II are those that have hypomania phases only (Shalala). A very small percentage (.6)

of Americans have Type II.


Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally. There is no discrimination when

it comes to mental illness (MDA). Cycling is defined by the shifts from one phase to

another. Women are more prone to the more rapid cycling. This is due to the different

hormone changes in the female body. A male is apt to cycle every two to four years, while

a female may cycle four or more times annually (Shalala).


The best way to understand bipolar is to learn about the different phases that an

individual experiences. There are four different phases: depressive, manic, hypomania

and mixed episode (APA).


The depressive phase can last for several months. The patient will show depressed

behavior daily, weight loss, diminished pleasure, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, lack of

concentration, restlessness, insomnia or hypersomnia (over sleeping), impaired functioning

and suicidal thoughts. These symptoms are present without any evidence of drug or

alcohol abuse (Long). Any thoughts of death or suicide should be taken seriously.


The word mania comes from the French and means crazed or frenzied (Shalala).

In the manic phase, the individual sleeps only a few hours, yet is feels perfectly rested.

They tend to be talkative, distracted and overly goal-oriented. Unfortunately, they seldom

follow through with their goals. Pleasurable activities become very important, particularly

those that involve high risk. The ego becomes inflated beyond reality and their thoughts

and ideas race continuously (Long).


Hypomania is a much milder form of mania. In this phase, the individual can easily

fall into a deep depression or escalate into full-blown mania (APA).


The last phase, mixed episode, is when an individual shows symptoms from both

manic and depressive phases.


There are many different theories on what causes bipolar disorder. There seems to

be a connection with family prevalence. Those with a parent with the disorder have a one

in seven chance of being bipolar themselves. An earlier age of onset is typical in these

cases. the typical age of onset is adolescent and earlier adulthood (Shalala).


Other probable causes are biochemistry, biological clocks and psychological stress.

It is known that those with bipolar disorder are more vulnerable to emotional and physical

stress (APA).


The diagnosis of bipolar disorder typically takes up to eight years. Clinicians

mistakenly diagnose depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or paranoia. Inappropriate

treatments only make the disorder worse. Anti-depressants lift the patient into the manic

phase and anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium or Xanax depress the patient. Psychotherapy

alone does not help (Shalala).


There are solutions for the bipolar patient. Education is the most important. Not

only the patient needs to be educated, but also those close to them. Understanding why

someone is bipolar and what symptoms to watch for is the first step in helping the

individual get better and maintain a healthy balance (Francell).


Medications are prescribed to the patients to balance the chemicals in the brain.

The most prescribed drug is Lithium. It acts as a mood stabilizer and is often used in

conjunction with an anti-depressant such as Paxil or Zoloft. Other mood Stabilizers are

Tegretol and Depakote. These medications require close monitoring of the levels in the

blood to prevent toxicity (Parikh). Medications are most likely needed for a lifetime to

maintain remission (APA).


When medications fail to work, electoconvulsive therapy is appropriate. Far from

being cruel and inhuman, the electric currents have shown positive responses in patients



Psychotherapy in conjunction with medication is a useful aid in helping bipolars

deal with emotional and physical stresses. The years lost to the disorder before diagnosis

can be dealt with. Support groups also help the individual share the fears and concerns



Proper treatment of bipolar disorder prevents suicide, substance abuse and

social/personal problems. Eighty percent of bipolars can lead healthy, productive lives


Works Cited

(APA) American Psychiatric Association. "Expert Consensus Treatment Guidelines for

Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families". Expert Knowledge

Systems. 03 February 2000. <http://www.psychguides.com/bphe.html>

Francell, Edward G. Jr. "Medication - The Foundation of Recovery". Internet Mental

Health. 03 February 2000. <http://www.mentalhealth.com/fr20.html>

Genet. Am J Hum. "Evidence for Linkage of Bipolar Disorder". Internet Mental Health.

03 February 2000. <http://www.mentalhealth.com/fr20.html>

Long, Philip W., MD "Bipolar I Disorder - American Description". Internet Mental

Health. 03 February 2000. <http://www.mentalhealth.com/dis1/p21-md02.html>

(MHN) MentalHelp.Net. "Bipolar: Your Complete Well-Connected Guide". Nidus

Information Services, Inc. 03 February 2000.


(MDA) Mood Disorders Association. "Bipolar Affective Disorder". Disability

Information And Resource Center, Inc. 03 February 2000.


(NDMDA) National Depressive and Manic-Depression, Association. "Overview of

Bipolar Disorder and Its Symptoms". National Depressive and

Manic-Depression, Association. 03 February 2000.


Parikh, Sagar, MD "Acute Mania". Internet Mental Health. 03 February 2000.


Shalala, Donna E. "Mood Disorders". Dept. of Health and Human Services. 03 February

2000. <http://www.nimh.nih.gov/mhsgrpt/chapter4/sec3.html>


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