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Bipolar Disorder

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Essay title: Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, known by many as BD, manic depression, or manic depressive disorder, is a condition characterized by extreme mood swings that vary between high, elevated, but not necessarily “good” moods, and those of very low, depressed nature. While almost everyone tends to experience mood swings at one time or another, those endured by people suffering from bipolar disorder are beyond the ups and downs known to a regular person and sometimes have the ability to be life altering. Bipolar disorder can cause behavior so severe that it may affect the way one functions at work, in family or social situations, or in relationships with others. It used to be a common belief among doctors that the symptoms of bipolar disorder do not become apparent until early adulthood, however, more recent findings of such symptoms in young children and teenagers have proved otherwise. While the exact causes of bipolar disorder are still somewhat misunderstood by the professionals who study it, a few possible causes have been discovered including strains of the disorder passed down through generations of family members, living environments and family situations, and finally, chemical imbalances in the brain. Early diagnosis and treatment of the disorder can help greatly in the management of manic depression, but because bipolar disorder shares symptoms with so many other mental disorders, it is not uncommon for its sufferers to be inaccurately diagnosed and therefore, inaccurately treated. This is what happened in my own case; because of the wide belief that bipolar disorder does not strike people of young age and because chronic depression, not bipolar disorder, is present in my own family history, I was wrongly diagnosed for a number of years that could have possibly been spent feeling better.

Again, bipolar disorder is mainly characterized by extreme mood swings between “high” or elevated moods as well as those on the other end of the spectrum, sadness and depression. Such “high” moods are commonly known as “manic” phases of bipolar disorder and are used to describe periods of time when sufferers feel overly excited or confident. A common misconception about the disorder is that “high” moods pertain only to feelings of happiness, excitement, or what many refer to as “good” moods. While such feelings are not uncommon during manic phases of bipolar disorder, they can quickly turn to confusion, irritability, anger, or even rage. Specific symptoms of manic phases of bipolar disorder, otherwise known as “mania” are sudden, excessive happiness, hopefulness, and excitement; sudden changes from being joyful to being irritable, angry and hostile; restlessness, rapid speech and poor concentration, increased energy and less need for sleep, high sex drive, the tendency to set unattainable goals, the tendency to display poor judgment and decision making, drug and alcohol use and abuse, and increased impulsivity. During manic phases of the most extreme severity, some sufferers may even become psychotic, seeing and hearing things that aren’t really there and forming opinions with such stubbornness that they cannot be proven wrong. Some people suffering from such extreme cases of mania have believed themselves to have taken on superhuman powers or see themselves as god-like.

The other phase by which bipolar disorder is characterized is that of depression and sadness, often known as “lows”. This phase is often one that plagues manic depressives much more often than periods of mania or elevated spirits. Specific symptoms of such low phases include sadness, loss of energy, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable, difficulty concentrating, uncontrollable crying, difficulty making decisions; irritability, increased need for sleep and insomnia, a change in appetite that can cause extreme weight loss or gain, thoughts of death or suicide, and attempting suicide. Several symptoms common to the depressive phase of bipolar disorder are shared by the manic phase as well. A few of these symptoms include irritability and difficulty concentrating. It is symptoms such as these, which are common among other mental disorders as well, that tend to cause sufferers of bipolar disorder to be inaccurately diagnosed and treated. Also, because irritability and lack of concentration are commonly associated with depression, many people fail to realize that these are sometimes symptoms of elevated, manic periods as well. In my own case, I mistook my feelings of irritability strictly as signs of depression, unaware that they could sometimes be stemming from a common characteristic of bipolar mania: inflated self-esteem. My own misjudgment is proof of how easily a condition such as bipolar disorder can go unnoticed and unattended to, or treated as something much more common and less severe. Symptoms of neither phase follow a set,

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