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Depression & Bipolar Disorder

Updated on November 3, 2012

Bipolar disorder describes the cycle of emotion in the extreme ends of a spectrum of mood. The hallmark of this disorder is the highs and lows of mood changes that are expressed in emotional cycles. It has been suggested in numerous studies that neurotransmitters in the brain are influenced by an overproduction or underproduction of the usual even flow that stimulates neurons and creates balance in the brain of the individual. In a bipolar episode, these neurotransmitters are either over stimulated or depressed by low levels and disrupt the mood; and in extreme cases, may alter the individual’s perception of reality. Known as psychosis, this condition is a symptom that denotes a brain that has been overstimulated by neurotransmitters to the point that is known as "a break in reality."

Women and Men are Equally Affected by Bipolar Disorder

Men with the disorder tend to experience longer and deeper depressive phases, while women experience more sustained manic episodes and cycle through the maze of moods faster.

Mania Versus Depression: The Poles of Extreme

The cycle of mood shifts are influenced by brain chemicals, stressors, medications, alcohol, grief and loss of a relationship or career position. The mechanisms of Bipolar Disorder are not clearly understood by scientists, but they know much more than they did 10 years ago. The manic phase is when the person is stimulated by brain chemicals that produce a "High" effect. Much like when anyone experiences extreme happiness, the person with Bipolar Disorder has a sustained "excited" or "extreme happiness" that lasts for a period of time. The Manic Phase may be short or last months in duration. As the chemicals in the brain change, the Manic Phase may shift into a Hypomanic Phase that is much more manageable for the individual. After this phase, a period of normalcy or calm may occur, and if the mood continues to move down the scale, the person may experience extreme depression.

Bipolar Disorder: The Cycle of Mood Shifts

Represents the Cycle of Moods in Extreme Ends of the Spectrum
Represents the Cycle of Moods in Extreme Ends of the Spectrum | Source

Treating Mania and Depression: The Balancing Act

Phase of the Mood Cycle
Signs and Symptoms
Treatment Phase
Severe Depression
Debilitation, remains in bed, isolated and has suicidal ideations, unable to function.
Antidepressants and Anti-Anxieties, May Require Antipsychotropics
Mild Depression
Feels better and has a little more energy. May begin to become social again.
Antidepressants and Mood Stabilizers
Assumes a feeling of Normalcy
Functions normally, aquires an even mood and thought process. Able to concentrate.
Medication may be completely changed
Approaches a Hypomania
Overly Joyful and outgoing. Insomnia and may not eat properly. Feels "very good."
Stop Antidepressants and continue mood stabilizers
Maniac Phase
Speaking very fast, not eating, not sleeping, experiencing sustained euphoria, may become delusional
Mood Stabilizers, may need Valium or other calming medications

Not All People will experience the wide mood swings of Bipolar 1 Disorders

The Creativity of the Person with Bipolar Disorder is a Fascinating Phenomenon
The Creativity of the Person with Bipolar Disorder is a Fascinating Phenomenon | Source

Bipolar Disorder: Touched By Fire

Most human disorders are usually phased out by nature. Even in modern humans, a community usually opted not to support a person who exhibited a disorder, and often these individuals didn't have many children, or were not inclined to be accepted socially and may not have survived. However, this is not the case with Bipolar Disorder. Despite their eccentricities, the Bipolar community has been relished and revered by the less interesting due to their amazing ability for creativity and brilliance for centuries in history and modern times.

Bipolar Disorder and Fascinating Creativity

People with Bipolar Disorder have a rigor for discipline in the arts. They have the ability to concentrate and create works that take an incredible amount of discipline and dedication. A study conducted at Stanford University found that people with bipolar disorder scored significantly higher on creative controls than those without the disorder on a measure of creativity called the Barron-Welsh Art Scale. Some therapists have concluded that the openness of an an individual with Bipolar possesses a mind that is forever changing and challenging their reality is the very core of being an artist.

Different Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Types or Subtypes
Signs and Symptoms
Differences in Characteristics
Bipolar 1
Severe disorder with extreme highs and lows. Manic Phase and Depressive Phase. May experience Psychosis.
Most Severe of the Bipolar Disorders
Bipolar Disorder ll
Has the same symptoms with less severity in manic and depressive phases and behavior changes are milder that type 1.
Less Severity than Bipolar 1
Cyclothymic Disorder
Described by short periods of the depressive phase with brief episodes of elevated mood defined as hypomania.
May be Experienced a few Times in a Lifetime or Lifelong
Mixed Bipolar Disorder
Incorporates both the manic phase and the depressive phase simultaneously. The person experiences a “high” or elevated mood with feelings of depression and experiences suicidal ideations.
Rare Disorder

A Brain Scan Shows how Depression Affects Brain Activity

A simulation of a Brain Scan on Depression
A simulation of a Brain Scan on Depression | Source

We Pay for Our Gifts

Brain scans continue to reveal the effect of chemicals on our brain and behavior, but do little to display the beauty of our minds. Hopefully, in the future, we can have a better understanding of the mysterious organ we call our brain. The true fascination with being human, is our appreciation of the differences that reveal us, and not define us. We pay for our gifts, and our superpowers are given to us with perhaps a price. The person with Bipolar Disorder paints, authors, or creates a place that touches our souls. The physician with ADD is a better diagnostician because he doesn't miss anything related to the patient's examination, the young man with autism writes a computer program that no one else could see with their "normal brains." Unfortunately, It may not always be obvious to ourselves what our gifts are, especially when the cost is so high, but hopefully, the brilliance is obvious to each other. Our differences are what make us the unique and contributing humans that we are. Yes, we pay for our gifts.


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