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OF mental health care and mentally ill

Symptoms Diagnosis Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder or manic depression as it is sometimes known, is a disorder which, as its name suggests, consists of two categories of symptoms: depressive symptoms which are described in the first part of this chapter, and mania, that is periods of exaggerated mood, euphoria and psychotic episodes. The other key feature which needs to be present in order to diagnose bipolar disorder is cyclicity, which is a shift of mood between depression and normal mood and mania over periods which may vary between two to three days and several weeks or months; so there may be long spells of normality followed by reoccurrence of either a manic or depressive symptoms.

Thus bipolar disorder can be said to be a mental illness characterized by the presence of one or more of the following:

manic episodes, mixed episodes, hypomanic episodes.

Only one of these episodes needs to occur just once during the lifetime of an individual for that individual to be considered as suffering from bipolar disorder. The presence of a major depressive episode occurs in 90 per cent of those with bipolar disorder during their lifetime. However, a major depressive episode does not need to have occurred for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder to be made. Thus there are individuals suffering bipolar disorder who do not have a history of major depressive episodes. The lifetime risk of bipolar disorder (i.e. the risk of developing bipolar disorder over the lifetime) is less than 1 per cent in Western countries with a range between 0.4 and 1.6 per cent . The prevalence of bipolar disorder at any given time, that is the number of people who actually have the disorder, is estimated to be between 1 and 3 per cent of the general population. The frequency of bipolar disorder, unlike major depression, is similar for men and women (APA 1994), and onset of bipolar disorder peaks between the ages of 15 and 25.

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