What was once called manic-depression and is now more commonly called bipolar disorder is still a serious mental illness. People with this condition can put themselves, their relationships and the safety of others at risk if they are not treated for this condition in a timely manner.
If moods can be thought of poles (as in polar opposites) the moods of people with bipolar disorder can swing unpredictably and wildly between two very opposite emotional states. These two states are often wild elation or agitation and profound depression. It is also true that bipolar people can experience more normal emotional states for extended periods of time even when they are not being treated for their condition.
The wildly elated state is the “manic” side of bipolar disorder. Behavioral symptoms of this abnormal state include restlessness, excessive energy, recklessness, euphoria, delusion thinking and feelings of immense power. Very common behaviors include excessive generosity, uncontrolled spending sprees and impulsive sexual escapades.
Seemingly without warning that mood can alter and the bipolar individual becomes profoundly depressed, angry, suspicious, irritated, confused or simply morose. The bipolar person may be overcome with a sense of worthlessness and sadness, may weep uncontrollably for little apparent reason, and be unable to sleep or take pleasure in anything. The course of bipolar disorder is complex and unpredictable. Diagnosis can prove difficult. Duration of the bipolar emotional states can vary wildly among bipolar patients and within a single patient as well — from a few hours to a number of years with all the markers in between. Frequency of bipolar episodes also varies considerably.
Psychiatrists familiar with bipolar disorder tend to discuss the moods experienced by their patients as a spectrum of emotions and behaviors. Mood swings experienced by people with bipolar disorder may even be welcomed at times, because they can become exceptionally productive and creative at least for a while.
The destructive and pathological aspects of the disorder come to the fore when patients enter extreme emotional states and lose complete touch with reality. Their mania makes them abandon any respect for the rules of law, finance or sexual morays; they spend wildly and engage in outlandish or completely promiscuous sexual behaviors.
When they become unreasonably depressed they also become a danger to themselves and commonly entertain serious thought of suicide.
Bipolar disorder, for some obvious reasons, has a profound effect on families as well. Many psychiatrists consider bipolar disorder to be the hardest of all the psychological disorders for families to cope with. Perhaps what make this disorder so hard to understand are not the periods of abnormal behavior, but the periods of normalcy. It can be difficult to believe that someone who seems so normal one day can behave so strangely or feel so badly the very next day.
It’s important to remember this regarding bipolar disorder. If you suspect that you or someone you care about has bipolar disorder you should see an Orange County therapist. Also take note that effective treatments are available for bipolar disorder as well.