What is Bipolar anyway?

To start at the beginning,
here are a few definitions...

from Wikipedia:

Bipolar disorder or manic-depressive disorder, also referred to as bipolar affective disorder or manic depression, is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and mood with or without one or more depressive episodes.
The elevated moods are clinically referred to as mania or, if milder, hypomania. Individuals who experience manic episodes also commonly experience depressive episodes, or symptoms, or mixed episodes in which features of both mania and depression are present at the same time.
[2] These episodes are usually separated by periods of "normal" mood; but, in some individuals, depression and mania may rapidly alternate, which is known as rapid cycling.

from Bipolar Aware:

Bipolar disorder(which is also known as manic depression) is a mental illness
involving episodes of serious mania and depression. These can be severe mood swings accompanied by changes in emotions, thoughts, behaviours, physical health and functioning.
The mood swings are more extreme and more prolonged than the everyday ups and downs that we all experience. Emotions may vary from from depression and hopelessness through to feeling overly elated('high') or irritable.
People usually go through periods of normal mood in between these times.

from the United States' National Institute of Mental Health:

What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time.

from Bipolar Home:

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive illness, is a common illness characterized by current episodes of mania and major depression. An affected person's mood can swing from excessive highs (mania) to profound hopelessness (depression), usually with periods of normal mood in between. Some individuals may exhibit mixed symptoms of both mania and depression at the same time, while others may have more moderate symptoms of mania (hypo mania).

The type, severity and duration of mood episodes experienced can vary. Some individuals may have a predominance of either mania or depression, whereas some sufferers may experience equal numbers of both. The mood episodes can last for a few days to as long as several months, particularly when left untreated or not treated effectively.

from Stanford University:

Also known as manic depressive illness, bipolar disorder is characterized by severe and disabling highs (mania) and lows (depression). Affecting 2.2 million Americans, this illness typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life, with 80% of patients experiencing multiple manic episodes and 15% ending their lives in suicide.

and finally, from Consumer Reports:

If you have bipolar disorder, your mood can dramatically swing from very high to very low. Unfortunately, there isn't any cure. But there are lots of treatments that can help control your moods.

Most people have ups and downs in their moods: days when they feel good and others when they feel down. If you have bipolar disorder, your mood swings much further than other people's. Sometimes, you might feel very "high" and have lots of energy. That is called mania. Other times you might feel very low. That is called bipolar depression.

Both mania and bipolar depression can last for weeks at a time....But, in between the mania and the depression, there may be weeks, months, or years when you're in a normal, stable mood.


...as happens so often when living la vida bipolar, you pays your money and you takes your chances.

That's not as cynical as it may sound. "Bipolar" is a complex situation- it's not a single thing, but a name used to describe a variety of symptoms and behaviours that occur in different combinations in different individuals.

It makes it difficult to treat, and even to understand sometimes. This is as true for medical professionals as it is for those of us who live with it every day... as well as those who live with those of us who live it every day.


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