Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a recurrent condition that involves a person cycling from a depressed mood (the "lows") to a manic mood (the "highs"). A manic period can be brief, lasting from 4 to 14 days, or longer, lasting up to several weeks.
Bipolar disorder has alternating periods of mania -- extreme high energy -- and deep depression. In the "up" or manic phase, people may sleep little, talk fast, develop grand and unworkable plans, and sometimes behave bizarrely -- for example, giving away all their money overnight. In the "down" phase, they may contemplate suicide. In many people with this disorder the "down" phase predominates, and for that reason, the diagnosis may be missed. Other, more subtle versions of the condition also exist.
The depressive periods may also last from days to weeks or even six to nine months. The periods of mania and depression range from person to person many people may only experience very brief periods of these intense moods, and may not even be aware that they have bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is fairly well-understood and readily treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. People with bipolar disorder tend to have to remain on maintenance doses of medication for the rest of their lives. With modern medications, however, those doses tend to have minimal side effects well-tolerated by most people who take them.
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