Bipolar disorder was previously called manic-depressive psychosis. In English bipolar refers to the fact that we have a disorder characterised by deep valleys and high peaks, a disorder where feelings oscillate.
While schizophrenia can simply be described as a confused state that affects how people think and feel, bipolar disorder is referred to as a mood disorder.
This illness is not uncommon. It will affect 1 out of 100 at some point in their lives, and about twice as many women as men. At any given time, however, there will only be around 1/3 as many people with active symptoms of bipolar disorder as with schizophrenia. One of the reasons is that the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be more easily controlled with medication, so that recovery is generally much better. Whereas the psychotic episodes are stressful and a hindrance, more people with bipolar disorder will function well between episodes.
Some have a number of euphoric (manic) episodes, others have a series of melancholy (depressive) episodes, while others in turn will have all possible combinations.
We can understand the manic episode as a desperate attempt to keep sadness at bay. Who has not tried to drive away sad thoughts by doing something different, buying something new, etc.?
The persons affected experience extreme moods – they are very high up or very far down.
Delusions or hallucinations may occur. These will then, as a rule, be according to whether the person is manic or depressed.
The symptoms of mania may be
- feeling irritable or elated
- talking very fast
- having a lot of ideas that are never carried through
- sometimes feeling outpaced by one’s own thoughts
- having less of a need for sleep than otherwise
- being more active than one normally is
- telephoning or writing letters constantly
- driving recklessly
- being very sexually active and uncritical
- spending enormous and unrealistic amounts of money
The symptoms of depression may be
- feeling blue, being sad, anxious or nervous
- feeling a need to cry all the time, for no particular reason
- losing interest in things that one usually enjoys and becoming withdrawn
- sleeping poorly, often waking up early in the morning
- having problems concentrating on simple tasks or making decisions
- either gaining or losing weight, or having an increased or diminished appetite
- moving or talking slowly
- seriously contemplating suicide; feeling worthless and that life is not worth living
- being certain that one is deservedly suffering from a terrible illness
- complaining that a lot is physically the matter
People who have cycles of depression followed by euphoria have the classic symptoms of bipolar disorder. That is, they have the symptoms of both of the poles of feelings. Some have a number of euphoric episodes, others have a series of depressive episodes, while others in turn have all possible combinations.