Manic Depression or Bipolar Disorder as it is often termed is sometimes referred to as the seesaw of mental disorders. This is due to the fact that individuals suffering from Bipolar Disorders characteristically display signs of dramatic mood and personality swings over an extended period of time. These shifts in mood range from extreme high points or manias on one hand to incredible lows or depressions on the other.
The latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-IV as it is commonly called, is used by professionals worldwide to classify and treat mental disorders such as manic depression. The manual lays out the precise diagnostic criteria for the various forms of Bipolar Disorders, as well of the exact symptoms of both manic and depressive episodes.
It is estimated that between 0.5 and 1.2 percent of individuals may develop bipolar disorder during there lifetime. Symptoms are most likely to appear during the late teens or early twenties. It is however not uncommon for manic depression to arise in young children and teens, especially if one or more of their parents or relatives have suffered from the disorder at any given time.
According to the DSM-IV, there are various different branches to bipolar disorders, all of which are classified according to the combination of symptoms they involve and the manner in which they affect individual responses to normal stimuli. These elements or branches include mania, hypomania and various forms of depression.
Hypomanic episodes for instance typically involve periods of extreme elation which are categorised by irregular, irritable moods that last for at least 4 days. In addition, at least three of the following other symptoms should be present:
• Inflated Self Esteem or grandiosity
• Reduced need for sleep
• Increased talkativeness
• Flight of ideas (racing thoughts)
• Distractibility which causes attention to easily be drawn to external stimuli.
• Increased goal- directed activity or psychomotor agitation
• Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities (eg sexual endeavours or unwise investments which are likely to cause distressing consequences.)
Finally, the change in functioning which an individual experiences should occur only when the person is symptomatic and should be clearly apparent to others. There should be no psychotic features to the hypomanic episode and it should not at any stage be severe enough to impair occupational or social functioning in any way, or necessitate institutionalisation. The symptoms that present themselves should also not be a result of substance abuse or a side affect of another medical condition or the treatment thereof.
Treatment of bipolar disorders can be complicated due to the fact that individual reactions to prescribed remedies may vary. In addition to medication, therapies such as electroconvulsive therapy and psychotherapy may also prove effective in the treatment of the disorder.