Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive illness, is a common illness
characterized by current episodes of mania and major depression. An
affected person’s mood can swing from excessive highs (mania) to profound
hopelessness (depression), usually with periods of normal mood in
between. Some individuals may exhibit mixed symptoms of both mania and
depression at the same time, while others may have more moderate
symptoms of mania (hypo mania).
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The type, severity and duration of mood episodes experienced
can vary. Some individuals may have a predominance of either
mania or depression, whereas some sufferers may experience equal
numbers of both. The mood episodes can last for a few days
to as long as several months, particularly when left untreated or not
Depressions tend to last longer than manic
episodes. Typically, a person with bipolar disorder can expect
an average of ten episodes of mania or depression in his or her
lifetime but some sufferers experience much more frequent mood
episodes. The frequency of episodes tends to increase with time
and individuals who experience four or more episodes in a year are said
to have rapid cycling.
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Bipolar Disorder Types
Bipolar I disorder
Individuals have had at least one full manic or mixed mood episode, and may or may not suffer from episodes of depression.
Bipolar II disorder
Individuals have at least one depressive episode and at least one hypo manic episode, but never experience a full manic or mixed mood episode. Bipolar II can go unrecognized because the hypo manic symptoms may not appear that unusual.
Individuals have suffered numerous hypo manic and depressive symptoms over at least 2 years that are not severe enough or not long enough in duration to meet the criteria for a mood episode.
Individuals who experience more frequent mood episodes ( 4 or more per year) are
called rapid cyclers.
This is the same as rapid cycling, only the cycles are more frequent. (4 or more per
week, and can cycle as rapidly as 4 or more per day)
Some individuals have predictable seasonal patterns to the onset of their mood episodes.
When the mood disturbance occurs within 4 weeks of childbirth.