Monday, February 27, 2006

Bipolar Basics - By Nikola Marshall

Bipolar is an illness that is little understood by the general population. Unless you or someone close to you is affected by it, chances are you have a certain amount of misconceptions. A basic working knowledge of the illness is in order.

More than two million American adults suffer from bipolar. The illness typically develops in the late teens or early adulthood, although it can manifest in early childhood or later in life. Those affected may suffer for years before being properly diagnosed.

Bipolar is characterized by dramatic shifts in mood, energy and ability to function. It can be the source for damaged relationships, poor job performance and even suicide. The good news is that it is treatable!

There are two main kinds of bipolar, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is more typical and the more severe of the two. Type 1 has recurrent episodes, or mood swings and is more prone to psychotic episodes. Type 2’s never develop severe mania, but milder episodes of hypomania that alternate with depression. If a person had four or more episodes during a twelve month time period, it is considered rapid cycling.

An explanation of terms is required here. Dramatic mood swings are referred to as episodes. Psychotic episodes include hallucinations and delusions and these will reflect the mood the person is in at the time. Hypomania is a mild to moderate level of mania. Without treatment, it can become severe or switch to depression. Mixed states are when symptoms appear together, such as agitation, trouble sleeping, psychosis and suicidal thoughts.

Both mania and depression have a set of typical symptoms.

Manic symptoms can include: increased energy/activity, restlessness, euphoric mood, irritability, racing thoughts, talking fast/jumping from subject to subject, lack of concentration, insomnia, spending sprees, increase in sex drive, abuse of narcotics, aggressiveness, and denial that anything is wrong.

Depressive symptoms can include: lasting sad/anxious/empty mood, hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, lack of interest in things once enjoyed, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating/remembering/making decisions, sleeping too much, change in appetite, and suicidal thoughts.

Bipolar is a treatable illness. It is up to the patient to follow therapy. If not, their episodes can become more often and become more severe.

This is but a very basic introduction to bipolar. It is one of the remaining few mental illnesses with a stigma attached. With education, the public will have a better understanding and eventually, the stigma will be lifted from this illness too.

Nikola lives and writes in Oklahoma. She is active in her local Citizen's Police Academy Alumni, Volunteers in Policing and Skywarn. She enjoys scrapbooking, reading and spending time with her two dogs. Nikola is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Creative Writing.

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