Bipolar Disorder by malj


									                                 Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is one of the most distinct and dramatic of mental illnesses. It
is characterized by intense episodes of elation or irritability and despair, with any
combination of mood experiences in between, including periods of normal
moods. Mood changes are accompanied by changes in behavior, such as altered
patterns of sleep and activity. According to the National Institute of Mental
Health, about 2.3 million Americans, or one percent of the population, have
bipolar disorder. It is less common than other forms of depression, such as
major depression, also called 'unipolar' disorder, or simply, "depression."

The classic form of bipolar disorder, which involves recurrent episodes of mania
and depression, is called bipolar I disorder. Some people, however, never
develop severe mania but instead experience milder episodes, called
hypomania, that alternate with depression; this form of the illness is called
bipolar II disorder.

Studies show that men and women are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder;
however, there is some evidence that women may have more depressive and
fewer manic episodes than do men with the illness. Women seem to have "mixed
states" (mania or hypomania occurring at the same time as depression) more
often than men. Also, women are more likely to have the rapid cycling form of
the disease, which is characterized by four or more episodes of depression,
mania or hypomania a year, and may be more resistant to standard treatments.
Women are also more likely to have bipolar II disorder.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can be severe and life threatening. Bipolar
disease is not curable. However, medication can relieve the disorder's intense
and often disabling symptoms for many people with bipolar disorder. Treatment
and maintenance of this disorder is necessary throughout a person's life, once it
is diagnosed.

Like some other illnesses that require life-long treatment, bipolar disorder poses
unique medical challenges for women with the disorder who are considering
pregnancy. A woman with bipolar disorder who wants to become pregnant
should discuss her treatment options with her health care team prior to
conception, if possible, or as early in her pregnancy as possible. Concerns exist
about the potential, harmful effects mood-stabilizing medications used to treat
bipolar disorder may have on the developing fetus and the nursing infant. In
addition, women with bipolar disorder are particularly prone to experience an
episode of the illness in the postpartum period. Women with bipolar disorder
may be up to 100 times more likely to experience post partum psychosis.

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