Manic depression, more properly known as bipolar disorder, is a mood disorder characterized by extremes of mood. People with manic depression go through periods of uplifted mood known as mania, as well as periods of depression. This condition can be seriously debilitating or even life-threatening, and it can disrupt the lives of the people around the patient. A number of treatment approaches are available for manic depression, and there is no reason to suffer from this condition without help.
People with bipolar disorder can experience periods of depression and mania in which they are highly energized, enthusiastic, and optimistic, or hypomania, a slightly more subdued form of classic mania. These periods can last for days or weeks, and be followed by a period of normal behavior, or a plunge into depression. When patients rapidly flip back and forth between mania and depression, they are said to have “rapid cycling” bipolar disorder. Patients can also experience a mixed state form of manic depression, in which they feel both extremes at once.
Like other mood disorders, there is no simple test for manic depression, and many people go undiagnosed. Diagnosis relies on a series on interviews with a mental health professional who can discuss the situation with the patient and arrive at a diagnosis. Someone with bipolar I has experienced at least one episode of mania, while individuals with bipolar II have demonstrated hypomania and depression. Cyclothymia involves a less severe cycling between hypomania and mild depression.
Psychotherapy can sometimes help people address manic depression, as it may provide coping and management skills for dealing with mood extremes. Some people also take medications which are designed to adjust their brain chemistry, as imbalances in the brain are believed to be responsible for manic depression. Shock therapy has also been effective for some patients, along with alternative medical approaches like acupuncture. Some patients may opt for hospitalization or be hospitalized by a doctor out of concern for their wellbeing, usually with the goal of a temporary stay which allows the patient to regain equilibrium.
The causes of manic depression are not fully understood. The condition usually emerges in the patient's teens, and it can be brought on by intense life experiences or drug and alcohol abuse, but not always. There may be a genetic component, as people from families with a history of mood disorders are more likely to develop manic depression.
People who experience psychological symptoms should consider getting help, even if the symptoms are not severe or debilitating. Conditions like manic depression can get worse if they are not addressed, and an early diagnosis can help a patient take control of the issue.