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Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)

Bipolar disorder, previously referred to as manic depression, is a type of mood disorder that goes beyond ordinary ups and downs.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by periodic episodes of mania, featuring extreme elation, happiness, elevated mood, or irritability. Mania is countered by periodic, classic major depressive symptoms, hence there are two "poles" or symptoms of the disorder.

The disorder affects 2.6 percent of American adults each year. The median age of onset is 25 and it affects males and females equally.

Symptoms appearing before the age of 12 can often be confused with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is characterized by difficulties resulting in inattentiveness, distractibility, impulsive behavior and hyperactivity.

Bipolar disorder is likely to run in families and, in some cases, is believed to be hereditary. Researchers are still seeking to identify a gene (or genes) that may be responsible for this disorder.

Bipolar disorder symptoms

Although everyone experiences the symptoms of bipolar disorder differently, these are the most common symptoms of the condition:

Depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder

  • Persistent feelings of sadness

  • Feeling hopeless or helpless

  • Low self-esteem

  • Feeling inadequate

  • Excessive guilt

  • Feelings of wanting to die

  • Loss of interest in usual activities or activities once enjoyed

  • Difficulty with relationships

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Changes in appetite or weight

  • Decreased energy

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Indecisiveness

  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

  • Frequent physical complaints

  • Running away or threats of running away from home

  • Hypersensitivity

  • Irritability, hostility, aggression

Manic symptoms may include:

  • Overly inflated self-esteem

  • Decreased need for rest and sleep

  • Increased distractibility and irritability

  • Excessive involvement in high-risk activities, such as reckless driving or sexual promiscuity

  • Increased, excessive talkativeness

  • Excessive "high" or euphoric feelings, at times grandiose 

  • Severe, unpredictable mood changes including unusually happy or silly, or unusually angry, agitated, or aggressive

  • Increased sex drive

  • Increased energy level

  • Uncharacteristically poor judgment

Some teenagers in a manic phase experience psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations or delusions.

Diagnosis and treatment

An early diagnosis is crucial to recovery. For a diagnosis of bipolar disorder to be made, an individual must exhibit both depressive and manic symptoms to a varying degree, depending on the severity of the disorder.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder, especially in a teenager, may resemble other problems (such as, drug abuse, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or delinquency). Always consult your adolescent's healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Specific treatment will be determined by your adolescent's health care provider based on a full examination.

It is possible to treat bipolar disorder effectively using one or more of the following:

  • Medication

  • Psychotherapy 

  • Family therapy

  • Consultation with the adolescent's school

Parents play a vital supportive role in any treatment process.

Recognizing the varied and extreme mood swings associated with bipolar disorder is crucial in obtaining effective treatment, and avoiding the potentially painful consequences of the reckless, manic behavior.

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(Partial Hospitalization)