Many years ago, bipolar disorder was a condition that was misunderstood and undoubtedly went undiagnosed. Those who suffered with this illness were probably thought to be insane, or even worse, possessed by demons. Fortunately, science and medicine have come a long way and today we not only understand it, but are able to treat it effectively and quite successfully. And through such avenues as the International Bipolar Foundation’s World Bipolar Day on March 30, archaic notions and myths surrounding this disorder are gradually being dispelled and replaced with accurate information.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of mania, which is an elevated or agitated mood, followed by episodes of depression. It occurs in approximately four percent of the population worldwide.
No one factor is responsible for bipolar, but several factors can contribute to the advent of this illness. Twin studies indicate a genetic component exists; therefore, a person with a family history of bipolar disorder is more likely to develop the disease than someone with no family involvement. Brain imaging studies reveal that abnormalities in the structure and/or function of certain brain circuits could contribute to this disease. Similarly, there is a biochemical aspect, which basically indicates an imbalance in brain chemicals. Evidence suggests that environmental factors also play a significant role in its development and course. In fact, between a third and a half of adults with this diagnosis report having traumatic or abusive experiences in childhood.
Bipolar disorder is not curable; however, it is eminently treatable. With mood stabilizing medication and psychotherapy, a person can learn to manage the disease very effectively and live a life of balance and abundance.