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PART 1: Understanding the bipolar disorders Section 1: What is bipolar bisorder? Key points n Many people experience periods of depression and also periods of elation and overactivity. For some people, these episodes are frequent and severe enough to be seen as a ‘disorder’ – bipolar disorder. The word ‘bipolar’ refers to the two extremes or ‘poles’ of mood: depression and ‘mania’. Until recently the term ‘manic depression’ was also used. n Each person’s experience is unique and there is a continuum between the extreme mood states described in this report and the normal mood swings that everyone experiences. n Some people, but not all, find it helpful to think of themselves as having an illness. 1.1 Definition The term ‘bipolar disorder’ (previously manic depression) is used by mental health professionals to describe a pattern of extreme disruptions to mood, behaviour and thought. As with all psychological problems, each person’s experience of bipolar disorder is unique and, at the same time, there is overlap between the experiences of someone who receives a formal diagnosis and the normal mood swings of ordinary life. When people’s problems with mood swings are serious enough to significantly disrupt their lives, then a formal diagnosis of ‘bipolar disorder’ may be appropriate – it is important to remember that all formal textbooks of diagnosis stress that one of the criteria for formal diagnosis is that the person’s psychological difficulties are causing significant problems in their personal or family life. Bipolar disorder describes a pattern of episodes of severe depression, mania or hypomania, in addition to periods of relatively stable mood. People do not necessarily swing from one extreme to another, but instead typically experience maybe one, two or three periods of significant mood problems over a two or three year period. Episodes may last several weeks and usually follow no particular predictable course – depression is not necessarily followed by a ‘high’; it isn’t inevitable that a period of mania will crash into low mood. Also, even during periods of so-called ‘remission’, people who experience bipolar disorder often find that their lives are seriously affected by mood swings and difficulties in personal and family life. 1.2 Diagnosis There are two main diagnostic manuals used by mental health professionals. The World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (10th edition) or ‘ICD-10’ (WHO, 1992) and the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (4th edition) or ‘DSM-IV’ (APA, 2000). The two definitions of bipolar disorder are generally very similar. However, one difference worth noting is that a diagnosis of bipolar

Part 1: Understanding the bipolar disorders

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Understanding Bipolar Disorder  

This report was written by a working party of clinical psychologists who were chosen because of their particular expertise on the subject of...

Understanding Bipolar Disorder  

This report was written by a working party of clinical psychologists who were chosen because of their particular expertise on the subject of...