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Bipolar Disorder / Manic Depressive Illness
Information Courtesy of The Connecticut Clearinghouse

Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) is a treatable illness marked by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy and behavior. It is not a character flaw or a sign of personal weakness. Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression because a person's mood can alternate between the "poles" mania (highs) and depression (lows). This change in mood or "mood swing" can last for hours, days weeks or months.

Bipolar disorder affects more than two million adult Americans. It usually begins in late adolescence (often appearing as depression during teen years) although it can start in early childhood or later in life. An equal number of men and women develop this illness (men tend to begin with a manic episode, women with a depressive episode) and it is found among all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes. The illness tends to run in families and appears to have a genetic link. Like depression and other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder can also negatively affect spouses and partners, family members, friends and coworkers.

If you have already been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, please call us at (860) 832-1945 to set up an appointment with one of our counselors.


Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder differs significantly from clinical depression, although the symptoms for the depressive phase of the illness are similar. Most people who have bipolar disorder talk about experiencing "highs" and "lows" - the highs are periods of mania, the lows periods of depression. These swings can be severe, ranging from extreme energy to deep despair. The severity of the mood swings and the way they disrupt normal life activities distinguish bipolar mood episodes from ordinary mood changes.

Symptoms of mania - the "highs" of bipolar disorder

• Increased physical and mental activity and energy
• Heightened mood, exaggerated optimism and self-confidence
• Excessive irritability, aggressive behavior
• Decreased need for sleep without experiencing fatigue
• Grandiose delusions, inflated sense of self-importance
• Racing speech, racing thoughts, flight of ideas
• Impulsiveness, poor judgment, distractibility
• Reckless behavior
• In the most severe cases, delusions and hallucinations


Symptoms of depression - the "lows" of bipolar disorder 

• Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
• Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns
• Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
• Pessimism, indifference
• Loss of energy, persistent lethargy
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness
• Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness
• Inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal
• Unexplained aches and pains

If you or someone you know has thoughts of death or suicide, contact a medical professional, clergy member, loved one, friend or hospital emergency room or call 911 immediately.

You cannot diagnose yourself. Only a properly trained health professional can determine if you have bipolar disorder.

Many people do not seek medical attention during periods of mania because they feel manic symptoms (increased energy, heightened mood, increased sexual drive, etc.) have a positive impact on them. However, left unchecked, these behaviors can have harmful results.

When symptoms of mania are left untreated, they can lead to illegal or life-threatening situations because mania often involves impaired judgment and reckless behavior. Manic behaviors vary from person to person. All symptoms should be discussed with your doctor.


Treatments for Bipolar Disorder 

Several therapies exist for bipolar disorder and promising new treatments are currently under investigation. Because bipolar disorder can be difficult treat, it is highly recommended that you consult a psychiatrist or a general practitioner with experience in treating this illness. Your treatment may include medications and talk therapy.

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