Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Most people have heard of bipolar disorder or manic depression, but gaining an understanding of the illness and what it means for those affected by it on a daily basis takes effort and education. Bipolar disorder is a complex illness, and its origins and causes are not fully understood, even by clinicians and scientists. While there is a genetic/hereditary component, environmental influences also appear to play a role in the development and expression of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by often extreme changes in mood, energy level, and thinking. People with bipolar experience cycles of elevated and low mood that can range from mania at one end of the spectrum to severe depression on the other. People with bipolar disorder also often experience other symptoms not directly related to mood, such as anxiety disorders, substance abuse and misuse, attention problems, and some medical conditions.

While bipolar disorder is a chronic illness with no known cure, most people with the disorder experience episodes of recovery. During these times, individuals with bipolar disorder experience fewer and less severe symptoms, and no full-blown episodes of mania or major depression. For the vast majority of people, continuous treatment is required to avoid relapse. Left untreated, bipolar disorder tends to worsen; with treatment, people with bipolar disorder can lead very successful lives.

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