This disorder is a medical condition marked by mood swings that are much more severe than what most normal people undergo every now and then. The condition is more commonly known as manic-depression or bipolar depression, and combines episodes of deep, brooding depression with extremely elated moods ("mania"). The frequency and intensity of these severe mood swings differ among sufferers.
Estimates state that more than one percent of the population suffers from it at least once in their lifetimes. While many sufferers go through a manic-depressive stage at least once every few years, others may take longer between attacks, making the condition difficult to diagnose. Once recognized, however, it is possible to treat the symptoms.
This particular illness affects the brain, identifying it as a mental illness. It arises from irregularities in the brain's physical structure (particularly in the hippocampus area) and chemical processes. Individuals suffering from bipolar affective disorder experience mood highs and lows that are drastically above normal intensity. When mood swings persist in frequency, it often results in the individual being unable to function properly at work or at home. This also results in faulty decision-making skills and strained relations with the people around them.
Experts have identified two classifications of this affliction. Physicians make diagnoses based on the symptoms that the sufferers display.
" Bipolar I Disorder. Here, an individual suffers at least one manic episode (a “high" mood) or mixed episodes (fluctuating moods between depression and mania, often happening very quickly), in addition to at least one major episode of depression.
" Bipolar II Disorder. Less severe, subjects a sufferer to at least one major episode of depression and at least one “hypomanic" episode, or one in which the individual experiences a happy mood, but not so happy as to obstruct good judgment and function (as opposed to mania).
In order to diagnose a patient as suffering from one of the two types, other special conditions and circumstances that may also cause the above noted symptoms must be ruled out. The individual's medical history will be thoroughly checked for any previous records of mental illness. The patient's family history will also be checked for any prior accounts of similar mood illnesses. In the future, blood tests may also help in arriving at more accurate diagnoses.
Bipolar affective disorder affects approximately three out of every two hundred people in the general population, and more people suffer from Bipolar I than Bipolar II Disorder. At any given moment, from one to two million Americans are affected. Research has so far failed to determine whether it is more likely to affect certain races or ethnicity. What has been determined, however, is that Bipolar I Disorder affects both men and women in equal frequency and intensity, while Bipolar II Disorder occurs more frequently in women. Women are also more susceptible to rapid cycling, when depressive and manic stages follow each other in quick succession, usually at least four times in a single year.
To date, it has no cure. Research, however, has made great strides in understanding this lifelong mental illness, and experts are confident that better treatments (and even cures) will develop in the near future. For now, those suffering from it may rest assured that its negative effects can be mitigated with medication and modifications in lifestyle.
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Tim Clark writes various health related articles, most of them on his website on bi polar disorder . His other articles can be found here, bipolar disorder articles