Bipolar Disorder

aka: manic-depressive illness

History of Bipolar disorder:

It was first noticed as far back as the second century. Aretaeus of Cappadocia (a city in ancient Turkey) first recognized some symptoms of mania and depression, and felt they could be linked to each other. His findings went unnoticed and unsubstantiated until 1650, when a scientist named Richard Burton wrote a book called, The Anatomy of Melancholia, which focused specifically on depression. His findings are still used today by many in the mental health field, and he is credited with being the father of depression as a mental illness.


1.) Genetics- Some research has suggested that people with certain genes are more likely to develop bipolar disorder than others. Children with a parent or sibling who has bipolar disorder are much more likely to develop the illness, compared with children who do not have a family history of bipolar disorder.

2.) Brain structure and functioning - the pattern of brain development in children with bipolar disorder is similar to that in children with "multi-dimensional impairment," a disorder that causes symptoms that overlap somewhat with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This suggests that the common pattern of brain development may be linked to general risk for unstable moods. In adults with bipolar disorder the brain's prefrontal cortex tends to be smaller and doesn't function as well compared to the adults who don't have bipolar disorder.

  • People with Bipolar disorder have 9 years less on their life expectancy.


Symptoms of mania or a manic episode include:

  1. Mood Changes
  • A long period of feeling "high," or an overly happy or outgoing mood
  • Extreme irritability

2. Behavioral Changes

  • Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
  • Being easily distracted
  • Increasing activities, such as taking on new projects
  • Being overly restless
  • Sleeping little or not being tired
  • Having an unrealistic belief in one's abilities
  • Behaving impulsively and engaging in pleasurable, high-risk behaviors

Symptoms of depression or a depressive episode include:

  1. Mood Changes
  • An overly long period of feeling sad or hopeless
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.

2. Behavioral Changes

  • Feeling tired or "slowed down"
  • Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Being restless or irritable
  • Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
  • Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.


  1. Medications-
  • mood stabilizers - lithium, Valproic Acid
  • Atypical anti-psychotics - Zyprexa-which when given with an antidepressant medication, may help relieve symptoms of severe mania. Abilify- which is used to treat manic or mixed episodes. Seroquel, Risperdal and Geodon also are prescribed to relieve the symptoms of manic episodes.

2. Psychotherapy-

  • When done with medication, psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for bipolar disorder.

3. Electroconvulsive Therapy-

  • Shock therapy

Future of Bipolar Disorder:

In a new study, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai were able to correctly distinguish bipolar patients from healthy individuals based on their brain scans alone most, but not all, of the time. This means that patients can be diagnosed and given the correct medicine or therapy so that they can get back to their everyday lives.

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