What is Bipolar Disorder?

In many circles, the term bipolar disorder is often loosely thrown around to describe an individual with flighty emotions.  While there is some truth to this definition, the truth lies in the intensity of the mood swings, and the extent to which it affects one’s life.  What is bipolar disorder?   In all actuality, bipolar disorder is known as a manic-depressive illness where the fluctuations in mood and every challenges an individual’s ability to perform everyday tasks.  This extreme condition can affect one’s personal relationships, academic performance and career goals.  Severe cases may lead to suicide.

Interestingly enough, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that the rates of bipolar disease in the United States are higher than the reported cases in any other country.  The two poles that an individual suffering with bipolar disorder experiences are mania and depression.  A person in a mania phase will feel an abundance of energy, have trouble sleeping, make unsound decisions, and talk a lot.  When in the depressive state, the mood switches to one opposite that of mania.  The person may feel extremely depressed, crying more than usually, and having feeling of uselessness.  They may either sleep all of the time or have trouble sleeping depending on the person.

People who display the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder and eventually become diagnosed with the condition usually have a genetic predisposition.  Many studies have shown that if a family member has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, will have a higher risk of acquiring it themselves.  Environmental factors or social situations can trigger a depressive or manic state.  These include a death in the family, mental stress, divorce, or another traumatic event.  Once the cycle has been started, it is often hard to stop it without some kind of behavioral modification or medication.

Although it is fairly common in today’s society, many people still wonder, ‘What is bipolar disorder?’  The answer to each specific case lies within the patient who is suffering from the debilitating condition.

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