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Part 1: Understanding the bipolar disorders Section 1: What is bipolar disorder? 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. Section 2: How common are these experiences? n These experiences are quite common – about 1 to 1.5 per cent of the population are likely to receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at some point in their life. n Elation and overactivity (‘hypomania’) are very common but only lead to problems – and therefore a diagnosis – in certain circumstances, for example if they alternate or co-exist with depression or if they lead the person to behave in a destructive way (for example, overspending). People can also experience problems if, when feeling elated, they temporarily develop unrealistic beliefs (for example, that they are a great leader), or start to perceive reality differently (for example hearing voices when there is no-one there), become exhausted, feel out of control or are admitted to hospital. Section 3: Development impact and course of bipolar n Problems often start in late adolescence or early adulthood, and can affect a person’s development. n In addition to episodes of extreme mood, some people experience ongoing mood difficulties. n Research tends to focus on people who have ongoing problems and are in contact with services. This may have led to an overly negative view of how problems affect people, i.e. that they tend to recur. n Despite the negative bias, the research still shows that overall 60 per cent of people do not experience ‘relapse’ and nearly half are able to return to their previous lifestyle in terms of job, social life, etc., over a two-year period. n There are positive as well as negative aspects to these experiences. Many people with a diagnosis of bipolar – and people with similar experiences who have not received a diagnosis – have huge amounts of energy and are extremely creative and productive. Section 4: Problems with ‘diagnosis’ in mental health n There is a debate about whether ‘diagnosis’ is useful in mental health. n Mental health diagnoses are defined by lists of ‘symptoms’ (experiences and behaviours) and do not indicate anything about cause. n There is a large overlap between diagnoses. n People may meet criteria for different diagnoses at different times in their lives. n Among people with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, there is much variation in how frequently they experience problems and in what treatments are helpful. This suggests that the diagnostic category fails to capture some important differences between individuals. Executive summary

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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...