This is a condition where the persons moods swing wildly from elation
to severe depression.
What to look for
Mood swings which are obvious
and unexpected characterise this disorder. There are two strongly opposing phases the
person swings from:
In the manic
euphoria or irritability.
excessive talk; racing
high energy levels
impulsiveness - shopping
sprees, excessive spending, promiscuity
In the depressive
depressed mood and low
slow speech, fatigue.
suicidal thoughts and
Manic-depression or bipolar
disorder is a disturbing illness both to the sufferer and there families. It is
characterised by cyclical swings between euphoria and despair. There is no set pattern to
the swings between the manic phase and the depression phase and no exact frequency with
which they occur. Some people are continuously in this alternating cycle, for other more
fortunate people it only happens once in their life. In most instances, the patient is
depressed longer than they are manic.
Much evidence suggests that
the illness has a genetic basis, but its actual cause is still baffling doctors. The
symptoms apparently result from chemical imbalances in the brain. This illness interrupt
the patients life and that of their family, but it can also have dangerous consequences if
the patient commits suicide.
The disorder usually takes
one of two different types. In one type the patient has very disruptive and over-excited
mania phases alternating with depression, while there is another type in which the mania
phase is less pronounced and not very excessive.
In the first type, patients
are likely to be very intense and often will pace about, shouting and screaming or they
may flit from subject to subject rapidly. Both are thought to be genetically linked.
The symptoms of this illness
can be controlled through the use of medications and other treatments.
The illness is sometimes
linked to a seasonal disorder, with depression occurring in late autumn or winter and
progressing to mania in the summer.
Usually the disorder starts
in early adulthood, with the first episode in men likely to be manic and the first in
females usually depressive. With age the occurrences of phases come more frequently and
A possible cause of
manic-depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, caused by a defective gene. Among
the neuro-transmitters possibly involved are serotonin and norepinephrine, these two
chemicals influence mood. A low level of serotonin may produce an unstable mood while an
imbalance of norepinephrine alters the direction of the mood swing. It is reported that a
low level is associated with depression and a high level produces mania. This area is
complex and not completely understood. In a number of cases, there is some family history
of mood swings, depressive illness, or suicide which indicates that genes do play some
type of role.
In most cases, manic
depression will commence with no outside influence or cause, however in some cases tension
or dysfunctional upbringing may stimulate an episode.
Many cases are not treated
and the reason may be that patients do not want to acknowledge that anything is wrong
because of the negative stigma attached to mental illness. In addition, doctors often do
not recognise the symptoms and misdiagnose the illness.
In attempting to diagnose,
psychiatrists will investigated the patient's history and also the family history. This is
to eliminate other disorders.
The patient should go through
a physical examination as well which includes a blood and urine test. The doctor may also
perform a thyroid examination as medication for this illness may affect your thyroid.
See Thyroid Problems
Doctors usually treat this
disorder with both medication and psychiatric therapy. Hospitalisation will usually only
occur in extreme cases.
You will need to be under
regular supervision by your doctor so he or she can monitor your progress and the levels
of the drug in your blood stream.
Natural therapies may not
always be very helpful with this disorder while the patient is having either a manic or a
depressive episode. However, they can often be helpful in between occurrences.
Talk to your doctor about the
benefits of magnesium. It has been reported that this mineral has the same affects as
lithium (the drug most used in the treatment of manic depression). Do not ever treat
yourself. This disorder should always be monitored by your doctor.
Another option is the use of
some Chinese herbs. However it is vitally important that you see a Chinese Herbalist who
is experienced in treating mood disorders - not all of the practitioners are.
If you live with a person who
is manic depressive or if you have this disorder yourself, try to have a tranquil home
especially when the person is having a manic episode. Getting enough sleep is very
important. Loud parties, lots of television watching and loud music can bring on a manic
People who are in the manic
phase often take part in risky activities and they should be watched and prevented if
possible from taking risks. Food and drinks containing caffeine or any other energy
lifting substance should be avoided during the manic phase as should alcohol.
When to seek further