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Bipolar Disorder


There is considerable variability in estimates of the prevalence of Bipolar Disorder.  According to NIMH, Bipolar Disorder is present in 2.6 % of the adult population in the US; DSM 5 estimates 0.6% of the adult U.S. populations; The CDC estimates 4% of the population.  Both NIMH and DSM 5 report that it is nearly evenly spread between men and women, while the CDC reported that it is more common in women than in men by a margin of 3:2.  The average age of onset is 25. Most of these are (over 80%) are considered “severe).   Pediatric Bipolar Disorder (including Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Bipolar NOS) is estimated to be prevalent in approximately 1.8% of children under 12, and 2.7% of children 12 and older.  Rapid cycling is more common in females than in males, and more common in children than adults. Bipolar Disorder runs in families, and has a strong genetic component.

According to the American Psychological Association, “Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness in which common emotions become intensely and often unpredictably magnified. Individuals with bipolar disorder can quickly swing from extremes of happiness, energy and clarity to sadness, fatigue and confusion. These shifts can be so devastating that individuals may choose suicide.  All people with bipolar disorder have manic episodes — abnormally elevated or irritable moods that last at least a week and impair functioning. But not all become depressed. “ (Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology). People with Bipolar Disorder account for 25% of all successful suicides in the U.S.


Bipolar Disorder is much more that normal ups-and-downs experienced by most people.  Bipolar Disorder is a disorder of the brain that causes severe shifts in mood, energy level, and ability to perform everyday tasks.  It often results in damage to relationships, and impaired functioning at work, home and school.


All people diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder experience manic episodes. Manic episodes include feelings of euphoria or irritability, decreased need for sleep, inflated self-esteem, increased activity, racing thoughts, and may include delusions and grandiosity. People experiencing mania may have extremely poor impulse control, and may engage in sexual behavior, spending sprees, or gambling which may lead to serious consequences. Some people with Bipolar Disorder may also suffer from delusions or hallucinations. 


Most people with Bipolar Disorder also experience periods of severe depression. 


Bipolar Disorder often co-occurs with other disorders, such as anxiety or ADHD. While people with Bipolar Disorder may have co-occurring substance abuse problems, it is important to determine if the mood swings are primarily due to substance use alone.


The primary treatment for Bipolar Disorder is medication. It is common for someone with Bipolar Disorder to be on a combination of several medications, which may include a mood stabilizer such as lithium, or anti-convulsion medications, antipsychotic medications, and anti-anxiety medications.  Psychotherapy is also recommended for Bipolar Disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapies aimed at helping the individual predict and regulate mood and help the individual keep to a scheduled routine have been shown to be beneficial.


People with Bipolar Disorder often require considerable help from caregivers. Family therapy or adjunctive therapy including caregivers can be an essential component of the treatment plan.


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