Bipolar disease is essentially a mood condition in which the patient can alternate between periods of hectic and manic cheer and busyness and periods of dark depression. The condition was originally known as manic-depressive illness, but this covered a wide range of psychological disorders, not just the bipolar range. The diseases were separated out into unipolar disorder, which referred to major depressive disorder and bipolar disease, which makes reference of the extremes of temperament which can be experienced.

Living with a person with bipolar condition can be exhausting as they range from hectic highs in which they will not simply bake one cake, they will almost exhaust themselves baking a huge array of cakes! The manic phase can segue into the depressive phase straight away, or there can be a period of calm 'normal' behaviour before it starts. Trying to gauge the mood of a sufferer can be a daunting task, and can quickly take its toll on those people who live with them.

When the disease strikes younger victims the first episodes can be only depressive, while older sufferers sometimes will avoid the depressive phase altogether, going from manic state to normal, then back to manic state. While in the manic state sometimes sufferers are actually busier and more productive than usual, but sometimes the heightened state can cause impaired decision making and can be damaging to the patient. The libido during these phases can be boosted, and sexual activity can increase dramatically.

The depressive state can involve extremely negative feelings and thoughts on the part of the sufferer, intense bouts of guilt (for no good reason), weeping and pessimism. Sex drive is diminished during this phase, and lethargy may set in.

It is possible for the patient to suffer from mixed states or mixed affective episodes, where a bout of crying can occur during a manic phase, or thoughts racing during a depressive period.

Treating the condition

There is no direct cure for the condition, but that is not to say there is no help available. Depression treatment can be applied to bipolar sufferers, and there are medications which can keep the patient steady, neither manic nor depressed.

Much research has been undertaken into finding the causes of the bipolar condition, with very little success. No genetic causes have been found, nor have any other factors been found to reliably cause the condition. It is believed that there is, perhaps, more than one cause – perhaps the ailment only occurs when two or three set conditions exist?

In summary:
  • Patients going through the manic phase can go for days with little or no sleep
  • Sufferers can take a very proactive approach to their condition, learning to monitor the signs of a high or low and taking the appropriate steps to control it
  • Bipolar treatment specialists will assess each patient according to his or her needs, creating a treatment plan that works for the individual.