In Depression, Syndromes & Disorders

Understanding Manic Depressive Disorder

Define Manic Depressive Disorder

Physicians use many terms to refer to people who exhibit manic and depressive cycles in their personalities.

  • Bi Polar Affective Disorder
  • Bi Polar NOS
  • Bi Polar Syndrome
  • Bi Polar I, II, or Cyclothymia

This disorder is an effective illness with symptoms of manic episodes alternating with periods of extreme depression. Many people with bi polar disorder have longer periods of normal moods in-between.

Children or teenagers who do not fit into the diagnostic criteria for Bi Polar I, II or Cyclothymia but still have issues with mania and depressive cycles are referred to as having:

  • Bi Polar NOS
  • sub-threshold bipolar
  • manic depressive illness
  • manic depression

Patients present as rapidly cycling between manic and depressive episodes, or as hypo-manic with no depressive episodes.

Depressive Personality Disorder this is a controversial diagnosis currently deleted from the professional American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV-TR reference for diagnosis, warranting further study. It has a symptom list that is diagnostically correct for other disorders so the psychiatric world is considering whether or not it is an illness of itself or a condition that is included in other diagnoses.

Is Depression a Disorder?

Yes, physicians consider depression to be a mood disorder. Patients experience persistent feelings of loss of interest in the things they once enjoyed, and feel continuously sad. A major depression affects a person’s feelings, thoughts and behavior. If this continues, physical and serious emotional problems will take over. Feelings like “life isn’t worth living”, or “it’s not worth getting out of bed”, will impact a person’s ability to function.

Some people think depression is a sign of weakness or lack of character. This is a myth. Some people say the person should “just snap out of it”. They cannot. Depression often takes a long period of treatment. Depression can be treated and patients can resume their enjoyment of favorite activities and feel like living an active life again.

A depressive episode has several recognizable symptoms:

  • crying for no reason
  • feeling worthless
  • having no energy
  • continued sadness and unhappiness for at least two weeks
  • loss of interest in pleasurable activities

These are the same symptoms for one side of Bi Polar Disorder. That is why the name was changed from Manic-Depression because there was so much confusion until the psychiatrist learned about the other side to the patient’s mood swings, the mania.

What is the mania side of Bi Polar Disorder?

This is the part of the illness that sets patients apart from those diagnosed as having Depressive Disorder. The mania episode is on the opposite pole of depression. The patient will cycle back and forth from depression to manic episodes with no warning.

Manic episode symptoms:

  • thinking of themselves as overly important, superior, gifted or special
  • having uncontrollable, racing thoughts or speech
  • making poor judgments with money, relationships or gambling
  • feeling extremely irritable, “wired” and aggressive
  • being overly excited, confident and happy
  • euphoria
  • sometimes there is a psychosis or break with reality

Patients having some but not all of these symptoms is experiencing hypo-mania, which is less of an impairment but can cause less severe life trials. This is Bi Polar Disorder Type II. The more severe episodes are Type I Bi Polar.

Bi Polar Disorder (also known as manic-depression), is much more than just mood swings of good mood to bad mood. Cycles of bipolar disorder can last from weeks to months at a time. These feelings of being high or wired are experienced as having an advantage over everyone. Then the major depression hits and the intensified feelings of being down completely interfere with normal life.

A typical manic episode can cause a person to suddenly quit their job, go on a huge shopping spree and feel just great after only a couple hours sleep a day. The things a patient does while in a manic state, though uncontrollably impulsive are completely remembered. This does not help when the manic phase spirals into the inevitable depression. Patients hate themselves for causing huge debt, quitting perfectly good job, possibly getting arrested and cannot get out of bed.

In children, physicians sometimes mistake symptoms of manic depression or bipolar disorder for ADHD. The kids in manic state resemble kids with ADHD but more intense. Teens especially, engage in more risky behaviors in manic episodes than ADHD kids. They are prone to getting involve with sex, alcohol abuse and drugs at an earlier age.

Myths about Bi Polar Disorder

Bi polar disorder or manic depressive disorder is not contagious. Many misconceptions about this illness scare people away from helping. No one can catch this disorder. In fact the reason it runs in families is because it is a genetic problem. Even though this is a hereditary disease, family histories may not show the patterns initially because of so many misdiagnoses early on. Some people in centuries past were group in with schizophrenia.

  • People with bi polar disorder can’t get better or have a normal life. This is very wrong thinking. Many people lead happy lives, have successful careers, make great friends – once they have learned to treat their disorder and cope successfully with it’s challenges. Symptoms of bi polar disorder are managed through regular medication, education about their illness and a solid support group.
  • These people constantly swing back and forth from over excited to totally sad. Actually, there are some people who have a cycle of mania and then depression. Most patients diagnoses with this disorder are mainly depressed, occasionally have mild manic episodes but with medication can have reduced episodes. In fact, most people go for very long periods without episodes.
  • There’s got to be a cure for this. Perhaps one day soon there will be a total cure. Currently there is excellent methods for treating the symptoms. This illness doesn’t just effect a patient’s moods, the brain effects judgment, memory, self-esteem, sex drive, concentration, anxiety, sleep patterns, energy level and other diseases like: diabetes, high-blood pressure, heart disease and migraines.

If you hear people speaking out about this disease in a negative way, saying they are crazy or unreliable, etc., be sure to do your best to educate them. When a person is having an episode, they are no more dysfunctional than someone with a severe flu who cannot get out of bed and run their business as usual. Once their illness is under control, they can get back to normal living, same as if it was the flu interrupting their lives. They are not crazy or insane, they have a chemical imbalance that can be regulated same as diabetes or high blood pressure.

The more a person focuses on regularly taking medication and learning the healthy routine for staying symptom free, the more successful their lives will be. The key to being symptom free is to follow basic living skills:

  1. eating healthy foods
  2. monitoring moods
  3. avoiding stress
  4. sleeping regular hours
  5. keeping supportive friendships
  6. regular exercise
  7. most important – take medications on time every day

Pharmaceutical treatment is the largest part of the bi polar treatment plan for a successful life, but the issue is that it takes a while to find the specific dosage of medicine to keep each patient regular and symptom free. This means a patient has to be able to hear cautions from the doctor about being patient and keeping on the medications prescribed.

If a person has gotten used to the high feeling of being manic, they often feel like the medication is impeding them in some way and they are uncomfortable with the feeling. Also, the mistake that often happens is they think the medication isn’t working because it take a long time for the brain to use the medication successfully. Patients often quit taking their medication too soon. This is one reason why some patients often have episodes of disruptions in their lives while others are able to life symptom free for most of their lives.

Bi Polar Disorder effects over 5.7 million adults over eighteen years old in the United States. Severe cases can mimic schizophrenia at times. Recognizing symptoms of Bi Polar Disorder are difficult for a non-professional. Anyone who is no sleeping for excessive periods of time, excessively euphoric for no reason, showing symptoms of pressure speech, behaving oddly or out of character, sleeping excessively, feeling worthless and refusing to do the normal things they enjoy in life or performing poorly in school or at work, should see a doctor right away.

Do not allow people to feel ashamed of their illness but encourage them to seek help and show them your confidence in the fact they can get well again and have a normal happy life. Simple adjustments in the attitudes of taking medication and living healthier can make a difference.

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