Vital to Understand Bipolar Disorder's Devastating Effect and Raise Hope

Cape Times (South Africa), May 26, 2015 | Go to article overview

Vital to Understand Bipolar Disorder's Devastating Effect and Raise Hope


BYLINE: Akeso Clinics

An estimated 2 to 5 percent of the South African population suffer from bipolar mood disorder, therefore it is only fitting that today is set aside not only to raise awareness of the devastating effect this illness can have on sufferers and their families, but also to bring hope that it can be tamed.

A multifactorial and chronic disease requiring long-term medication, bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a disorder characterised by extreme shifts in mood, energy and functioning. The two main types, bipolar I and II, are distinguished by the severity of the highs and the duration of the episodes.

Dr Antoinette Miric, a Gauteng psychiatrist, explains: "Bipolar disorder I is diagnosed when an individual has had at least one manic episode which has lasted a week or required hospitalisation and may have had depressive episodes. During a manic episode, an individual typically has an elevated mood; rapid speech and little need for sleep; racing thoughts, continuous high energy and overconfidence, and may experience irrational thoughts."

"Bipolar disorder II is diagnosed after a patient has had a hypomanic episode (which shows similar symptoms to a manic episode, but is less intense) and has had depressive episodes.

"Patients with bipolar disorder can experience a range of symptoms. They are also more predisposed to develop other conditions, including substance abuse disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and personality disorders," says Miric.

A common question asked of clinicians is: "What's the difference between bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) and plain old depression?" Psychiatrist John M Grohol points out on the website http://psychcentral.com/lib/

He goes on to explain: "It's a simple question to answer because depression can either be a stand-alone diagnosis or a part of another disorder, like bipolar.

"If bipolar disorder includes a depressed mood, what else does it include? To answer this, the old name is pretty descriptive - manic depression. Bipolar is a combination of mania and depression, alternating in cycles," notes Grohol.

According to Miric, there is an interaction between genetic factors (internal) in a vulnerable individual and the environment they are exposed to (external), which result in the development of the disorder. …

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