Bipolar disorder is a serious and sometimes disabling mental condition in which sufferers experience periods of highs and lows, referred to as mania and depression, respectively. These episodes of mania and depression can occur frequently in some people, though many sufferers can go months without having an episode.
While the condition has existed for centuries, research is still inconclusive on why the illness occurs. The condition was previously referred to as manic-depressive psychosis and manic-depressive illness, but the term “bipolar disorder” has been in use since approximately the 1980s.
For many years, the illness was not recognized by the government and, thus, little help was given to sufferers.
While the exact cause of this mental condition is not known, certain factors, such as family history and certain imbalances of chemicals and hormones in the brain, can make people more likely to develop it. Of all cases diagnosed, approximately 80 to 90 percent have a family history of the illness.
Many different types of the illness exist, and they all differ in severity and symptom occurrence. The most severe form is characterized by psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations, and can actually interfere with daily life and everyday activities.
Less severe forms of the condition have milder symptoms and do not exhibit psychotic symptoms. Some cases of the illness cannot be categorized. These cases are referred to as Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS).
The first terms for mania and depression date back to the ancient Greeks, and writings as early as the second century describe a mental illness with high and low periods.
Bipolar disorder has been called circular insanity, dual-form insanity, manic-depressive illness and manic-depressive psychosis. The term “bipolar disorder” was coined in the 1980s, after the government passed laws recognizing the condition as an illness and providing help to sufferers.
The history of the mental illness is long and complicated, and there is much more still to learn. Knowing the history of bipolar disorder is important to understanding this illness.
The many forms of this condition exhibit different symptoms and vary in frequency and severity.
Bipolar I Disorder is the most severe type of the illness, while Bipolar II Disorder and Cyclothymic Disorder are milder. Mixed Bipolar Disorder sufferers can experience mania and depression at the same time. Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder sufferers experience episodes with extreme frequency.
Mania and depression symptoms are similar in each form of the illness, and hypomania (a less severe form of mania) can occur in some types of bipolar disorder.