Illness Behind the High Spirits; One in 100 People Suffer from Bipolar Disorder Which Causes Excessive Mood Swings

Article excerpt

Byline: Madeleine Brindley

THEY'RE the life and soul of the party, the first person to be invited to the latest social event of the week, commanding attention with their infectious enthusiasm.

They may dominate conversations and hold court over other less-forward party-goers.

Everyone knows someone who can inject that extra something to make a night that little bit more special.

But far from being always up and ready for it like a less cringe worthy real-life David Brent, such exuberance could be a sign of something more serious than high spirits.

It could be indicative of bipolar disorder, an illness which affects one in 100 people.

As the traditional round of Christmas parties heralds the festive season, the Manic Depression Fellowship has launched its latest drive to highlight bipolar disorder and the help available.

In a recent article about the illness, Dr Thomas Stuttaford, medical columnist for The Times, said, 'Though they may appear to be the social kings and queens of the moment, they need your help and sympathy later.'

Clive Westwood, spokesman for the Manic Depression Fellowship in Wales, said, 'This is very simplistic and trivialises a very important mental health problem.

'We shouldn't confuse mental health problems with personality traits.

'But, yes, people can misread elation as normal high spirits.

'Bipolar is under-diag- nosed, particularly in its mild form. It is a serious condition but if people feel they are experiencing these symptoms there is help available.'

Bipolar disorder can cause excessive changes of mood with swings from extreme depression to great elation and hyperactivity.

Mania is frequently expressed by an elevated mood, hyperactivity - typical of people classed the life and soul of the party - but can also include deluded thinking, irritability, irrational spending of money, inflated self-esteem and poor judgement.

Such mania can also be extremely dangerous - leading to risky behaviour, including promiscuity and, if undiagnosed, it is thought that 25% of people with such full-blown mania die from exhaustion.

Major depression is characterised by symptoms such as morbid sadness, lowered self-esteem and decreased energy, which may interfere with the ability to work, sleep, eat and enjoy once pleasurable activities.

Experts say that one in 100 people will experience the illness at some time in their life - women are almost twice as likely as men to experience it.

While new drugs have emerged to treat the condition, as opposed to the traditional treatment of lithium, if untreated one in seven people with manic depression will commit suicide, says the Manic Depression Fellowship.

The cause of the illness is not yet fully understood, but new research is being carried out into genetic, biochemical and environmental factors, each of which can play a role. …