Bipolar disorder is a condition in which depressive episodes alternate with manic or hypomanic phases. Already in ancient times, mood swings were described in connection with melancholy and numerous personalities of the past such as Virginia Woolf, Vincent van Gogh or Robert Schumann were “sky-high jubilant, grieved to death”. For people with bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive illness), life is like a roller coaster, caught in the extreme emotional spectrum between boundless euphoria and absolute low. In the majority of patients, however, the depressive phases predominate.
How to recognize that you may be suffering from bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a disease that usually manifests itself for the first time at a young age. Those affected sometimes describe their lives as a film in which the scenes got mixed up and in which they no longer direct. The typical manic phase, in contrast to depression, develops quite quickly. Within just a few days, the mania makes sufferers pulsate with energy and pushes to apparent peak performances. You are in a high mood around the clock and bursting with energy or have a lot of ideas. The wheel of activity keeps turning until it stops at some point – not infrequently, immediately after the mania, the fall of hell into depression follows. If you ask bipolar sufferers afterwards about the onset of the disease, around 73% report that their illness has started with a depressive episode. In the majority of patients, therefore, unipolar depression was initially treated and the overall course was not taken into account in the diagnosis.
Bipolar disorders are severe chronic mental illnesses characterized by manic and depressive mood swings. Mania is an exaggerated feeling of elation and those affected are usually overactive, euphoric or irritable at the same time. This phase is followed by more or less pronounced depression, with depressed mood, listlessness and sadness. The mood swings occur episodically and independently of the current life situation.
If the mood swings are personality traits without serious consequences for the person concerned and the environment, this is called “cyclothymia”. However, if these phases are more severe, i.e. longer phases of depression alternate with manic phases with high spirits, significantly increased energy and irritability, which have negative consequences for the person or persons concerned, it is called manic-depressive illness.
It is estimated that about 1 to 3% of the population is affected. Men and women get sick equally often. Many patients experience their first episode of the disease around the age of 18, but usually the disorder is only recognized later.
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