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The Darkness Within: Coping with Bipolar Disorder (Part 2)

A woman battles with mood swings associated with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes bizarre shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Scientists are currently conducting research regarding the exact cause of bipolar disorder. However, they haven’t been able to narrow down the disorder to a single cause.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder tends to run in families. Children with a parent or sibling with the disorder are more likely to develop the illness, than children whose family history shows no evidence of the disorder.

Individuals with the disorder describe their experience as an emotional roller coaster. Bipolar disorder is recurrent, meaning that more than 90 percent of the individuals who experience a single manic episode, will go on to experience future episodes.

According to MayoClinic, bipolar disorder is divided into several subtypes. Each has a different pattern of symptoms:

- Bipolar I disorder: Mood swings with bipolar I can make it difficult for a person to function properly at work, school, and in a relationship. Manic episodes can be severe and dangerous.
- Bipolar II disorder: Bipolar II is less severe than I. A person may experience an elevated mood, irritability, and some changes in their functioning, but generally they can carry on with a normal routine.
- Cyclothymic disorder: Is a mild form of bipolar disorder. The hypomania and depression can be disruptive, but the highs and lows are not as severe as bipolar I & II.

The manic phase of bipolar disorder may include the following symptoms:

- Inflated self-esteem.
- Poor judgment.
- Rapid speech.
- Racing thoughts.
- Aggressive behavior.
- Easily distracted.
- Delusions.
- Agitation or irritation.

The depressive phase of bipolar disorder includes:

- Sadness.
- Hopelessness.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Anxiety.
- Guilt.
- Fatigue.
- Problems concentrating.

Conditions that commonly occur with bipolar disorder are as follows:

- Anxiety disorders: This includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobias, and generalized anxiety disorders.
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): This often mimics symptoms that sometimes overlap with bipolar disorder. In some instances, a person may be diagnosed with both conditions.
- Substance abuse: Many people with bipolar disorder suffer from drug, tobacco, or alcohol abuse. Drugs and alcohol may appear to soothe the symptoms, but they can actually trigger, prolong, or worsen depression or mania.

Bipolar disorder is a complicated illness that requires long-term treatment that usually includes medication is prevent future episodes.

WebMD recommends that a person suffering from the disorder immediately consult an experienced psychiatrist in order to find the best course of treatment, and to be guided through all the twists and turns associated with the illness.

Remain strong.

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