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About one in seven adults are diagnosed with bipolar illness. In the U.S. that is over 17 million adults. The illness occurs equally among men and women.
Given proper treatment, at least 80% of people with bipolar disorder can recover.
People with bipolar illness are often very intelligent and creative, but without treatment become hampered by emotional instability. Throughout history, records show many great innovators and artists have suffered from severe mood swings. Issac Newton, Ernest Hemingway and Winston Churchill experienced such fluctuations.
Bipolar disease received its name from the symptoms displayed by those diagnosed with the illness. Symptoms often range from one extreme to another: different as night and day or north and south.
A person with bipolar illness tends to have moods that are up and down. They may range from extreme withdrawal or inability to move (depressed) to agitation or euphoria (manic). Often symptoms fall within a moderate continuum. A person may display frequent symptoms of depression with occasional symptoms that may indicate a manic episode, or the reverse may be true.
In a manic phase, a person may feel excited, have an increase in physical activity, not sleep for days, or speak rapidly. A feeling of being all-powerful and attempting to perform tasks that are impossible or dangerous sometimes occur.
Thinking patterns can be affected and the individual may show signs of paranoia or have hallucinations (see or hear things which are not really there).
When the person is experiencing the depression phase of the illness, sadness, hopelessness and low self-esteem may be evident. There may be changes in appetite and sleeping habits.
The presence of bipolar disease indicates an imbalance in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These are chemical messengers to the brain. Certain ones regulate mood and affect thought patterns. Effective treatment tries to restore that balance.
Like many long-term illnesses, it may mean life-long maintenance treatment. Certain medications have had a positive effect on correcting the chemical imbalance experienced. Mood stabilizers can improve symptoms of both mania and depression. Additional medication may be needed in conjunction with mood stabilizers during acute episodes.
Support and understanding by family, friends, and co-workers enhance the recovery process. Learn the facts about the illness. This helps eliminate myths and misperceptions. Encourage the person to seek and maintain treatment. Support the fact that the illness is treatable and recovery can be obtained.
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