What is Bipolar Disorder?

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Bipolar disorder is a condition that is defined by certain behaviors and thought patterns, some of which are the opposites of one another, yet can exist at the same time. Although the core troubles of Bipolar disorder are the same for children as they are for adults, often the specific behaviors are different, and vary according to the age and developmental level of the child. Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health problem that affects between 1% and 5% of children and adolescents. Bipolar disorder is classified as a mood disorder by the mental health profession, and can include two types of mood disturbances: depression and mania (joyful, elevated or severely irritable moods). Bipolar disorder is often misunderstood, but help is available with the right diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment is often necessary and many times crucial to recovery. Treatment and maintenance of this disorder is necessary throughout a person’s life once bipolar disorder is diagnosed. Treatment is also harder. Most drugs for bipolar disorder have strong side effects and even adult patients vary in what drugs work best for them. Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms and whether the illness is in an acute highly symptomatic phase or in a quieter chronic phase of remission. The cornerstone treatment for bipolar disorder is mood stabilizers, which may be combined with anti-psychotic medication.

Medications called “mood stabilizers” will help control your manic and depressive episodes. Medications and supplements represent the first section of the treatment plan. This is a difficult and often frustrating part of having bipolar disorder for many people. Medications known as “mood stabilizers” usually are prescribed to help control bipolar disorder. Several different types of mood stabilizers are available. Medicines like Lithium, Depakote, or Tegretol may be used long term to help to prevent the recurrent episodes of mania and/or depression. Usually, the severity of the manic and depressive cycles lessens with increased age.

Bipolar disorder is often accompanied by symptoms of other psychiatric disorders. In some children, proper treatment for the bipolar disorder clears up the troublesome symptoms thought to indicate another diagnosis. Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression because a person’s mood can alternate between the “poles” – mania (highs) and depression (lows). This change in mood or “mood swing” can last for hours, days, weeks or months. Bipolar disorder is thought to affect 1 in every 100 adults at some time during their life and men and women appear to be affected equally. It is now well established that bipolar disorder runs in families and that genes play a role in influencing an individual’s susceptibility to the illness.

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