The Ups and Downs of BiPolar Disorder
Sometimes a popular movie sets off a national dialog. Such is the case with the stellar performances in Silver Linings Playbook, which deals with aspects of bipolar disease.
Today I learned that bipolar disorders are often treatable, through a combination of therapies and drugs.
What is it?: Most people know bipolar disease as the condition of manic depression.
A short history: Bipolar disorders have been around for thousands of years.
1st Century: Aretaeus of Cappadocia, Turkey, detailed symptoms. His notations on the link between mania and depression went largely unnoticed for many centuries.
Ancient Greeks and Romans: coined the terms mania and melancholia. They even used lithium salts in baths to calm manic patients.
Aristotle: linked melancholy as an inspiration for the great artists of his time.
The Death Cure: in ancient times, people were executed for having bipolar disorders. They were thought to be possessed by demons.
17th Century: Theophilus Bonet publishes Sepuchretum, linking mania and melancholy in a condition called “manico-melancolicus.”
1851: French psychiatrist Jean-Pierre Falret published an article describing what he called “la folie circulaire,” which translates to circular insanity. It is considered the first documented diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
1921: Kraepelin’s Manic Depressive Insanity and Paranoia detailed the difference between manic-depressive and praecox, which is now known as schizophrenia.
1980: The term “bipolar”—which means “two poles” signifying the polar opposites of mania and depression—first appeared in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in its third revision.
2.4: percentage of people around the world are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
4.4: percent of people in the United States believed to have bipolar disorder, one of the highest rates in the world.
.1: India, the country with the lowest rate of diagnosed bipolar disorder.
25: Average age of onset
Bipolar disorder can run in families.
Warning Signs and Symptoms:
Bipolar disorder can look very different in different people. The symptoms vary widely in their pattern, severity, and frequency. Some people are more prone to either mania or depression, while others alternate equally between the two types of episodes.
The 4 Types of Mood Episodes:
• Mixed episodes
Myths and Facts
Myth: People with bipolar disorder can’t get better or lead a normal life.
Fact: Many people with bipolar disorder have successful careers, happy family lives, and satisfying relationships.
Myth: People with bipolar disorder swing back and forth between mania and depression.
Fact: Some people alternate between extreme episodes of mania and depression, but most are depressed more often than they are manic. People with bipolar disorder can also go for long stretches without symptoms.
Myth: Bipolar disorder only affects mood.
Fact: Bipolar disorder also affects your energy level, judgment, memory, concentration, appetite, sleep patterns, sex drive, and self-esteem. Additionally, bipolar disorder has been linked to anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, migraines, and high blood pressure.
Myth: Aside from taking medication, there is nothing you can do to control bipolar disorder.
Fact: While medication is the foundation of bipolar disorder treatment, therapy and self-help strategies also play important roles. You can help control your symptoms by exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, eating right, monitoring your moods, keeping stress to a minimum, and surrounding yourself with supportive people.
Celebrities with bipolar disorders (a partial list):
Catherine Zeta Jones
Ludwig van Beethoven
Vincent van Gogh
Treatments for Those with Bipolar Disorders:
• Group or family psychological counseling (psychotherapy)
• Support groups
Drugs Used to Help Control Bipolar Disorders:
Lithium (a mood stabilizer)
Anticonvulsant medications (valproate, carbamazepine, Lamotrignine, gabapentin, topiramate)
• Clozapine, olanzapine, risperidone, quetiapine and ziprasidone are used in patients who don’t respond well to lithium. Sometimes these medications are prescribed to help with severe mania.
• Insomnia is a problem with some bipolar patients. Clonazepam or lorazepam is prescribed for short-term use as these medications can be habit-forming.
• Occasionally, antidepressants are used in the treatment of bipolar disorder, but when used alone they can cause manic episodes. Mood stabilizers should be used along with an antidepressant to help prevent manic episodes.
• Often people who have bipolar disorder have abnormal thyroid functioning. Blood tests can determine whether thyroid medications are needed in addition to medications for mood stabilization.
Hotline & Helpline Information:
National Suicide Prevention Helpline
• 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
Helplines & Resources:
UCLA School Mental Health Project:
• Hotlines for suicide prevention and other crisis resources
• ULifeLine college network