Bipolar disorder can ruin families, end marriages and even take lives, if treatment is not actively sought for the inflicted person, and careful monitoring of medications, mood swings, and other symptoms are not handled properly.

There are two different kinds of bipolar disorder.

1. Bipolar I- People with bipolar I disorder have episodes of extremely high moods called mania and sometimes extremely low moods called depression. Sometimes they can have high and low moods at the same time. This mixed state is referred to as mania. Other symptoms include seeing and hearing things that are not there.

2. Bipolar II-People with bipolar II disorder may experience severe periods of depression, but have a milder mania. Doctors refer to this as hypomania.

Doctors believe that symptoms of bipolar disorder are caused by an imbalance of key chemicals in the brain. The brain is made up of billions of nerve cells that move a constant stream of information from one to the other. To keep the information flowing, the cells release chemicals known as “neurotransmitters.” Two key neurotransmitters that are needed for brain function are dopamine and serotonin, which play a crucial role in emotional health. Many scientists believe that when the levels of these neurotransmitters are not quite right, it may result in bipolar disorder.

People afflicted with bipolar tend to experience extreme mood swings, along with other specific symptoms and behaviors. These mood swings or “episodes” can take three forms: manic episodes, depressive episodes, or “mixed” episodes.

Many people act very agitated, uncooperative, and aggressive during acute manic episodes, which can be frightening. Some patients also think and talk fast or treat people in a rude manner. Others may go days without talking. Some suffer from insomnia or sleep too much. Acute mania can make a person feel as if they are on top of the world. A patient experiencing a mixed episode of bipolar disorder, will feel manic and depression at the same time. One moment they will be happy and smiling, the next they will be sad, lack energy, and will be filled with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

Formerly called manic-depressive, bipolar disorder is a condition that affects more than two million Americans today. This number may be higher as people afflicted with bipolar do not often seek out medical attention right away, for fear of drawing unwanted attention to themselves, or publicly embarrassing their family members. It is an equal opportunity disease. Although there is no cure for bipolar disorder, medicine can play a key role in helping a patient manage their symptoms. It can even make their behavior much more even and predictable.

Medicine can help patients get these behaviors back under control. Many medications are used to treat patients with bipolar disorder, such as Prozac, Abilify, Xanax, Wellbutrin, Valium, Thorazine, among many others. Once doctors have prescribed a medicine regimen that is successful in stabilizing a patient’s mood symptoms, it is important for the patient to continue taking their medication.

Most people with the disease see a doctor or psychiatrist for treatment. Some talk to a social worker or psychologist for treatment with therapy along with taking medicine. Each person is different. Treatment must meet an individual person’s needs.

Therapy can help a patient manage their illness in these ways:

1. Identify certain symptoms or behaviors that tell a patient an episode is coming on.
2. It can help a patient see the role stress plays in their illness, and help them to lower stress in their lives.

3. They come to understand why it is important for them to take their medicine the right way to treat their illness.
4. It will also help them to replace negative thoughts and actions with positive ones.

It is important for a patient’s continued welfare for them to have the positive support of family and friends. This may not be an easy task to accomplish at first, but through extensive family or group therapy, any wrong doings the patient caused can be rectified, and relationships with loved ones and friends alike can be salvaged.

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