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Manic depression is better known as the mental illness Bipolar Disorder. The illness is characterized by mood swings, with abnormal highs of euphoria or irritability (mania) and extreme lows of depression. The illness is called bipolar because of the swings between opposing poles in mood. It is classified as a type of depressive disorder but should not be mistaken for major depressive disorder which has no mania or hypomania. It is not nearly as prevalent as other depressive disorders. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot less understanding among the general public of bipolar disorder. Some stigma still remains, so raising awareness of the disorder is very important.
There are two main types of bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder are either type 1 or 2. Bipolar I includes manic symptoms and long-term manic episodes followed by depressive episodes. Bipolar II includes hypomanic episodes and depression symptoms. Hypomania is a form of mania but is milder. If even more mild than bipolar I, cyclothymic disorder is often the diagnosis. This is commonly diagnosed in teenagers who are likely to develop bipolar later in life.
The mood swings that come hand in hand with bipolar disorder can be dramatic and rapid, or more gradual. Mania impacts thinking, judgement, and social behaviour in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment for the afflicted. For example, unwise financial decisions may be made when an individual is in a manic phase. Impulsive and excessive spending on bizzare things is very common. Bipolar is a chronic condition with no known cure.
A mild to moderate level of short-lived mania is called hypomania. Hypomania is associated with bipolar II disorder but those with Bipolar I who experience mania and depression may also experience hypomania during their depressed phases. Without proper treatment, hypomania can turn into severe mania.
Severe episodes of mania or depression can include symptoms of psychosis. Common psychotic symptoms include:
Psychotic signs and symptoms in manic depression commonly reflect the patient’s extreme mood at the time. For example, delusions of grandiosity or narcissism may occur during mania and, in turn, delusions of worthlessness may appear during depression. People with bipolar who have these symptoms are occasionally incorrectly diagnosed with schizophrenia.
With proper treatment most bipolar disorder patients can achieve substantial stabilization. Seeing as manic depression is recurrent, long-term preventive treatment is strongly recommended and necessary. Most manic depressed patients combine pharmaceutical medications known as mood stabilizers with psychosocial therapy.
Mood stabilizers are varied but all include a large list of possible side effects. Commonly prescribed mood stabilizers are:
In addition to mood stabilizers talk therapy is often used to provide support, education and guidance to bipolar patients and their loved ones. Some studies have suggested that psychosocial interventions can lead to increased mood stability, fewer hospitalizations, and improved functioning in several areas.
Common therapies include:
Self-medicating with cannabis is common in bipolar patients, and anecdotal reports suggest some patients use cannabis to handle both their mania and depression. Studies show there are possible therapeutic effects of cannabis for bipolar patients. The cannabinoids Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) may cause sedative, hypnotic, antidepressant, or antipsychotic effects.
Manic Depression is a term that has been largely replaced by the term Bipolar Disorder in recent years. This disorder is a serious, life changing illness. It can affect everything from school life, careers, family dynamics, friendships and relationships. Managing the symptoms well is the key to maximizing quality of life for someone with Bipolar. Thankfully there are well established treatments available which seem to offer relief and stability for Bipolar patients today.