What is bipolar disorder?

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The bipolar disorder is defined as a condition in which an individual alternates between two poles of disposition: mania and depression. These mood changes are cyclical and episodic, lasting from as little as a few days to several years. The bipolar disorder is due primarily to a biological abnormality involving and imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Two types of bipolar disorder have been distinguished, Bipolar I and Bipolar II. An individual with Bipolar I disorder experiences severe depression with full blown manic episodes.

Bipolar II disorder, which is more common, involves a high frequency of major depressive episodes with an absence of full blown manic episodes. Individuals with Bipolar II experience hypomania which is a milder manic phase, often characterized by agitation and anxiety. However, individuals with hypomania might even feel good or productive.

When examining the two poles of the disorder, it is important to understand each state. An individual in a manic episode may experience overly happy, euphoric, exaggerated self-esteem, mood shifts, extraversion, lack of focus, hyper sexuality, accelerated thinking/speech, delusions, decreased need for sleep, and excessive involvement in narcissistic behaviors. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders qualifies a manic episode as a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated or irritable mood lasting at least one week. An individual experiencing depression might feel empty, numb, hopeless, unable to experience happiness or joy, impaired thinking, a preoccupation with death or suicide, feelings of worthlessness, sleep disturbances such as insomnia, fatigue, a lack of energy, or self-hatred. A period of depression might be the result of irrational or impulsive actions made during a manic phase. Nonetheless, the mania and depression experienced by an individual with the bipolar disorder is usually debilitating, affecting social interactions or occupation functioning.

Diagnosis depends on reoccurrence and severity or level of impairment. To be bipolar, one must have a manic episode, but not necessarily a depressive one although most people have both. The disorder, as stated by Lana R. Castle, is a “dichotomy of highs and lows.”