"Imagine that you are on the fastest roller coaster you have ever encountered. You are blasting around turns at amazing speeds. Further, imagine that it is also taking you to the highest and deepest points you could have ever imagined. Now, imagine that the roller coaster is in your mind, and it won't shut off." - Kent Allen Halliburton
"When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder the year I turned 50, it was certainly a shock. But as a journalist, knowing a little bit about a lot of things, I didn't suffer the misconception that depression was all in my head or a mark of poor character. I knew it was a disease, and, like all diseases, was treatable." - Jane Pauley
The causes are not clearly understood; however both environmental and genetic factors are though to play a role. For many, genetic factors of may contribute to the disorder's manifestation. Environmental factors include a history of childhood abuse and long-term stress. The condition is divided into Bi-Polar I and Bi-Polar II. If there has been at least one manic episode, with or without depressive episodes, it will be classified as Bi-Polar I. It will be classified as Bi-Polar II if there has been at least one hypomanic episode and one major depressive episode. In those cases with less severe symptoms of a prolonged duration, the condition Cyclothymic Disorder may be diagnosed. If the condition is induced by drug use or physical medical problems, such as poor diet, the condition may be classified separately. Other conditions that may present in a similar manner include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Disassociative Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Substance Abuse Disorder as well as a number of physical medical conditions. Medical testing is not required for a diagnosis, though blood tests or medical imaging can be done to rule out other problems.
Treatment commonly includes psychotherapy, as well as medications, such as Mood Stabilizers and Anti-Psychotics. Examples of mood stabilizers that are commonly used include lithium and various other Anti-Convulsants. Treatment in a hospital without the individual's consent may be required if a person is at risk to themselves or others but refuses treatment. Severe behavioral problems may be managed with short term Anti-Psychotics or Benzodiazepines. In periods of mania it is recommended that Ant-Depressants be stopped. If Anti-Depressants are used for periods of depression they should be used with a mood stabilizer. Electroconvulsive therapy, while not very well studied, may be helpful for those who do not respond to other treatments. If treatments are stopped, it is recommended that this be done slowly. Many individuals have financial, social or work-related problems due to the illness. These difficulties occur a quarter to a third of the time on average. The risk of death from natural causes such as heart disease is twice that of the general population. This is due to poor lifestyle choices made in various to self medicate the condition.
About three percent of people in the United States are estimated to have had Bi-Polar Disorder, or associated symptoms, at some point in their life. Lower rates of around one percent are found in other countries. The most common age at which symptoms begin is twenty-five. Rates appear to be similar in females and males. The economic costs of the disorder was estimated at $45 billion for the United States in 1991. This cost has since risen to an average of $52 billion a year. A large proportion of this was related to a higher number of missed work days, estimated at fifty per year. People with Bi-Polar Disorder also often face problems with the social stigma associated with the disorder, which tends tends to make dealing with disorder all that much more difficult.
"Most of the time, it feels like there are two different people in my head, and while each one is vying for total control, there is a blank canvas in the middle that is getting paint randomly strewn about on it. The struggle, of course, like an abstract painting, is to make something unique out of the chaos. The battle that then ensues is not for the faint of heart." - Kent Allen Halliburton