Bipolar disorder has been mentioned in the news quite often recently. It has been seen on entertainment gossip magazines with rumors that celebrities such as Catherine Zeta Jones and Lindsay Lohan have it. It has also been seen as a rumored diagnosis of many individuals responsible for recent public shootings such as the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting and the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is defined as a mood disorder or a condition in which people experience intermittent abnormally elevated (manic or hypo manic) and, in many cases, abnormally depressed states for periods of time in a way that interferes with functioning.
According to the National Institute for Mental health, Bipolar disorder affects more than 2.5 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world. The illness can start as early as childhood or as late as 40’s and 50’s. 90% of cases start before the age of 20. Research shows that there is not a specific cause to bipolar disorder, but most likely is hereditary. Most adolescents will have Bipolar disorder if one or both parents have the illness. There are four basic types of Bipolar disorders. Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS) and Cyclothymic Disorder, or Cyclothymia. There is also Rapid-cycling Bipolar Disorder which is the most severe.
Many people have a narrowed, stereotypical understanding of bi-polar disorder which tends to be that of the Rapid-Cycling disorder where mood fluctuates very severely and rapidly. However, like many diseases and illnesses, there is a broad spectrum and there are many signs and symptoms to Bipolar disorder. One with this illness experiences things such as extreme mood changes or behavioral changes. The person’s mood usually swings between overly “high” or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, with periods of normal mood in between.
Other symptoms include extreme irritability and distractibility, excessive “high” or euphoric feelings, increased energy, activity, restlessness, racing thoughts, rapid speech, decreased need for sleep, unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers, increased sexual drive, abuse of drugs or alcohol, reckless behavior such as spending sprees, rash business decisions, or erratic driving and, in severe cases, hallucinations and loss of reason. All of these symptoms vary depending on the type of bipolar disorder diagnosed. To determine if one has Bipolar disorder, a Doctor or health provider conducts and interview, does a physical examination and runs lab tests to get a proper diagnosis. Bipolar disorder cannot be determined through blood work or brain scan. Doctors or health care providers may conduct a mental health evaluation or provide a referral to a trained mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, who is experienced in diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder.
To identify exactly what’s going on; your doctor may have you keep a daily record of your moods, sleep patterns or other factors that could help with diagnosis and finding the right treatment. A licensed professional will ask medical history questions to determine the illness is Bipolar disorder verses severe depression. When diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, the illness never goes away, so it requires ongoing lifelong treatment. Even if the patient feels much better then when started, treatment cannot be stopped. Depending on the severity, there are different ways to treating Bipolar disorder. The primary treatments for bipolar disorder include medications; individual, group or family psychological counseling (psychotherapy); or education and support groups. Most cases the patient is put on Anti- depressants, Anti- anxiety pills, and mood stabilizers (to prevent highs and lows). Psychotherapy is very important for treatment, such as family and group sessions because this helps others learn and understand Bipolar disorder. There is no known cure for Bipolar disorder.
So there are no current promising breakthroughs. However if all treatments have been attempted with no success, another options used is called Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure in which a brief application of electric stimulus is used to produce a generalized seizure. Electroconvulsive therapy ECT can only be used as a last resort because permanent memory loss can occur. It is not known how or why ECT works or what the electrically stimulated seizure does to the brain, but the numbers are extremely favorable, citing 80 percent improvement in severely depressed patients, after ECT. According to the Medical Journal of Australia, the medicine Lithium E1 used for treatment has been reported to reduce suicide rates independently of its prophylactic capacity. The mechanism of this action is unknown. There has also been much interest in the potential clinical ramifications of laboratory studies indicating that lithium has neuroprotective properties. Ignoring signs and symptoms of Bipolar disorder could be extremely dangerous.
Especially if ones symptoms are so severe they’re attempting suicide or having suicidal thoughts. Symptoms and mood episodes could get much worse and more frequent if untreated. If properly diagnosed, treatment will help people with bipolar disorder lead better healthy and productive lives. Consistency in treatment is key in improving the overall lives of people with Bipolar disorder. Even though Bipolar disorder is incurable, and the patient will most likely be treated throughout their whole life, there are so many options for one with this illness to seek help, support and treatment. I chose to focus my paper on Bipolar Disorder because of my own personal experience with it. My sister Jeannie has been treated for Bipolar Disorder II for 4 years. Jeannie has struggled with mental illness since she was an adolescent.
She was treated for depression after she was nearly hospitalized for anorexia. She thinks that she was perhaps misdiagnosed and only treated for depression because it was only in her depressive states that she got help. In her support groups she has learned that this is not uncommon because people in mania are many times very happy and only seek treatment when mania becomes out of hand or when they start to break the law. When I asked my sister for her input on what she thought was important for people to know about Bipolar Disorder she said: “I wish there were more of a mainstream way of educating people about Bipolar Disorder. There are so many people in my support groups that are ashamed of having this mental illness and ashamed that they have to take medicine everyday and so they go off of it and bad things happen to them, they hurt themselves or other people.
I make it a point to not be ashamed of it and to educate people that it is ok that we have to take medicine because it keeps us from letting the disease make us do things that are not really us. It makes me so sad that some of my own close family members do not believe that I have a problem or that I might be faking an ailment, that there is nothing wrong with me, when what I need most is medicine and support. I think it is so funny when I tell people that I have this illness and they look at me very surprised and tell me that I am so normal though. Well yeah, that is what the medicine does! I hope that through being vocal and not being ashamed I can change how people think about mental illness in general and that it can be very well managed.”
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