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The Ups and Downs of Manic Depressive Disorder

With manic depressive disorder – also known as bipolar disorder – a person never knows whom he/she will wake up as. Perhaps the morning brings feelings of sadness, depression and anxiety. By lunchtime, they may feel like a switch has been flipped, resulting in feelings of over-excitement, hyperactivity and nervousness.

This rapid fluctuation of emotions is a struggle not only for the person experiencing them, but also their family. Learning to recognize and navigate the ups and downs of manic depressive disorder can take time, patience and understanding.

What Is Manic Depressive Disorder?

Those who struggle with manic depressive disorder fluctuate between opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. While there are several different types of manic depressive disorder, doctors characterize them all as experiencing at least one major depressive episode and one manic episode.

Criteria for a major depressive episode include:

  • Feeling depressed or sad most of the day for two weeks of longer
  • Taking little to no pleasure in life
  • Experiencing feelings of worthlessness
  • Experiencing profound fatigue with no known medical cause

Criteria for a manic episode can include:

  • An elevated and/or irritable mood that lasts a week or longer
  • Racing thoughts
  • Being easily distracted
  • Sleeping very little
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Experiencing unusual periods of talkativeness

Recognizing Mania Symptoms: The Family’s Role

Most instances of manic depressive disorder begin with a depressive episode. Depression is a more familiar condition to individuals and families – symptoms of hopelessness, sadness, lack of energy, and chronic fatigue may be easier for the sufferer to recognize. However, it’s the mania side that many don’t always perceive.

An estimated 50 percent of those suffering a manic episode aren’t aware they’re having a manic episode, according to Nassir Ghaemi, a Harvard University assistant professor interviewed in Psychology Today. Often, a person’s family is who recognizes he or she is manic.

The Dangers of Untreated Manic Depressive Disorder

A person struggling with manic depressive disorder isn’t always manic or depressed. But when he or she is, these states can be dangerous to his/her health and life. Depressive episodes can lead to thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Manic episodes can cause psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, which can require hospitalization.

In life, stability makes a person feel safe and secure. Those struggling with manic depressive disorder don’t have stability in their emotions. This can lead to substance abuse and profound anxiety as well as health conditions such as heart disease, thyroid disease, diabetes and migraine headaches, according to the National Institute on Mental Health.

If you or a loved one is struggling with bipolar disorder, seeking medical help can not only ensure safety, but also help a person work toward a stable mood. This can result in a happier, healthier life.