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Bipolar Disorder Essay, Research Paper


What is Bipolar Disorder?

The word bipolar is defined as “relating to, associated with, or occurring in two polar regions7″. Bipolar disorder is a concept described as a mental illness in which a person experiences dramatic mood swings. This disorder affects one in every one hundred people. Bipolar disorder is the technical term for manic-depressive illness.

The first known history of bipolar disorder was in 1922. Emil Kraepelin, director of the Research Institute of Psychiatry, developed the first categories of mental illnesses4. Manic-depressive psychosis (bipolar disorder) and dementia praecox (now called schizophrenia) are two categories he defined.


What Are the Stages and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

There are two recurring stages of bipolar disorder. Each stage is generally followed by a period of normalcy. The following section of the report will analyze the stages of bipolar episodes, and describe the symptoms of each.

Mania. The etymology of the word mania comes from the Greek word mainesthai, meaning to be mad7. The Webster’s Dictionary defines mania as “excitement manifested by mental and physical hyperactivity, disorganization of behavior, and elevation of mood”.

The mania stage of bipolar disorder is like the happiest moment of a person’s life, exaggerated to the full capabilities of the human mind (analogy). This becomes a problem when the feelings are so strong that the person looses contact with reality.

In an episode of mania, a person may experience the following symptoms:5

 Abnormally elevated mood (euphoria)

 Over-inflated self-esteem

 Decreased need for sleep

 Increased talkativeness

 Racing thoughts

 Distractibility

 Involvement in risky activities

Severe Depression. The Bipolar Disorder Glossary defines depression as “an extreme mood of sadness with physical symptoms such as loss of appetite and sleep.”

Everyone experiences depression in their lifetime, it helps people to recognize problem situations. In contrast to normal depression, severe depression can impair a persons ability to function in everyday situations.

Someone with bipolar disorder will usually demonstrate several of the following symptoms:5

 Persistent sad mood

 Loss of interest in pleasurable activities

 Change in appetite

 Difficulty sleeping

 Loss of energy

 Feelings of worthlessness

 Difficulty concentrating

 Suicidal thoughts

Mixed Episode. When in the mixed episode stage of bipolar disorder, a person experiences symptoms of both mania and depression at the same time. This stage is the most disabling because the depressed mood accompanies manic activities.

Figure 1

These are tomography scans of the brain of a person with bipolar disorder. Blue and green show low levels of brain activity: red, orange, and yellow show high levels of brain activity. The top row of Figure 1 shows depression, the middle row shows mania, and the bottom row shows the change back to depression3.

What Are the Factors of Bipolar Disorder?

Everyone goes through periods of depression, but most do not fall into severe depression. Psychologists believe that bipolar disorder is caused by biological and psychological factors, and are triggered by stressful events in life.

Biological Factors. Bipolar disorder, as well as other depression illnesses, can be passed down. Hormone imbalance may cause bipolar disorder. An abnormally high lever of hydrocortisone, a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland to deal with stress, can influence the susceptibility to bipolar disorder3. Deficiencies in folic acid or the B vitamins also contribute to the cause of bipolar disorder3.

Psychological Factors. There are several psychological factors that influence bipolar disorder. Sigmund Freud believed that “a person’s unconscious anger over loss weakens the ego, resulting in self-hate and self-destructive behavior3″. This loss could be real, such as a death, or symbolic, like failure to meet a goal. People with “depressive” personalities, someone who has a negative outlook on everything, is more likely to have a depression problem.

What Forms of Treatment Are Available?

There is no known cure for bipolar disorder, but it is treatable. The success rate for treatment is eighty percent1. There are two ways of treatment. For best results, both methods should be used together.

Counseling and Psychotherapy. Counseling, or talking over problems with a counselor, helps by allowing the release of withheld emotions and problems. A counselor may be able to help a person understand and solve problems. The Webster’s Dictionary defines psychotherapy as the process in which a “patient and psychiatrist work out the problems created by the disorder and reestablish healthy self-image”.

Medication. There are two types of medications used to control symptoms of bipolar disorder. Mood stabilizing medications are used to prevent mania and severe depression. They work by balancing the neurotransmitters, a substance that transmits nerve impulses, in the brain1. Antidepressants are used to prevent depression by altering the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain1.


What Are the Consequences of Non-Treatment?

There are several negative results of not treating bipolar disorder. The following table shows the total number of people in a certain situation versus the number of people in each situation with an untreated depression disorder. The statistics used to create Table 2 are from the 1998 MacArthur Foundation Study.



1. APA Online. “Manic-Depressive/Bipolar Disorder.” 1992. 20 April 2000

2. MacArthur Foundation. “Consequences of Non-Treatment.” 1998. 20 April 2000.

3. Microsoft Encarta. “Depression-Psychology.” 1999: CD-ROM. Microsoft.

4. Microsoft Encarta. “Kraepelin, Emil.” 1999. CD-ROM. Microsoft.

5. National Institute of Mental Health. “Bipolar Disorder Research Fact Sheet.” 2000. 20 April 2000.

6. OnHealth.com. “Bipolar Disorder Glossary.” 1998. 20 April 2000.

7. “Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.” Springfield: Merriam-Webster Inc. Pr.; 1984. Pgs 153, 723.

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