What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is in a class of mood disorders that is marked by dramatic changes in mood, energy and behaviour. The key characteristic of people with bipolar disorder is alternating between episodes of mania (extreme elevated mood) and depression (extreme sadness). These episodes can last from hours to months. The mood disturbances are severe enough to affect the person’s ability to function. The experience of mania can be very frightening and lead to impulsive behaviour that has serious consequences for the person and the family. A depressive episode makes it difficult or impossible for a person to function in his or her daily life.
Bipolar disorder is a medical condition that can be treated.
How prevalent is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder affects approximately 3 to 5% of the adult population and is equally distributed between men and women.
Who is at risk of developing bipolar disorder?
If you have a family member with bipolar disorder, you may be slightly more likely to develop it yourself.
What are the risk factors/triggers for bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder has no single proven cause, but research suggests that the condition is due to abnormalities in the way some nerve cells in the brain function or communicate. The disorder makes people more vulnerable to emotional and physical stress. As a result, stresses, such as upsetting experiences, substance use or lack of sleep, can trigger episodes, even though they do not actually cause the disorder.
What do I need to tell my doctor?
- Write down any symptoms you’ve had
- Write down key personal information
- Make a list of all medications you are taking
- Write down questions to ask your doctor
- Take a family member or friend along
Describe to the doctor what people think your “normal” personality is like. Describe how things are different now. Discuss all of your symptoms with your doctor and describe how they are affecting your life (e.g. racing thoughts that cause you to lose focus and not get things done). Your doctor can suggest or provide appropriate therapy based on your symptoms. Make sure to discuss all of the available treatments and medications and their benefits and side effects before making any decisions.
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