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Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar disorder is a type of mood disorder. Mood disorders are broadly divided into unipolar disorder and bipolar disorder.

Read more about the difference between bipolar and unipolar disorder.

Read more about mood disorders.

Bipolar disorder (previously termed 'manic-depressive illness') is a relatively common and chronic psychiatric condition in which patients experience episodes of mania and depression, usually with intervening periods of relative mood stability. Bipolar disorder is associated with cognitive and behavioural difficulties and in severe cases psychosis can present in both the manic and depressive states. The World Health Organisation 2002 Report, states that of all the neuropsychiatric conditions, bipolar affective disorder is the fourth cause of disability worldwide (The World Health Organisation, 2002).

Often beginning in adolescence or early adulthood, bipolar disorder has a profound negative effect on interpersonal, social, family and vocational outcomes and is a risk factor for substance abuse and suicide (Cassidy et al, 2001; Jamison, 2000; Maj et al, 2002). Recent reports have noted that up to 25% of bipolar disorder patients will attempt suicide at some point in the course of their illness (Keck, Jr. et al, 2001).

While the exact cause of bipolar disorder has not been elucidated, there are likely to be multiple contributors to the patho-aetiology of the disorder. A number of studies have implicated several areas of the brain and have focused attention on abnormalities in the intra-cellular processes of brain function, such as cell receptors and neurotransmitter effects. Most recently, studies have explored the possibility of neural degeneration as a potential common final pathway in the disorder.

A number of pharmacological treatments have been shown to be effective for the treatment of the manic and depressive states of the disorder and in the prophylaxis of episodes. Common agents used include lithium, anti-convulsants and anti-psychotics (mood stabilizing action). Other non-pharmacological treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy, and different psychotherapeutic approaches, e.g. social rhythms therapy, are also effective and can be preventative or even life saving in certain cases. 


Last updated: 20.12.2011





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