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WHAT IS BIPOLAR DISORDER?

Bipolar disorder, which is also known as manic-depressive illness and will be called by both names throughout this publication--is a mental illness involving episodes of serious mania and depression. The person's mood usually swings from overly "high" and irritable to sad and hopeless and then back again, with periods of normal mood in between.

Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. It is often not recognized as an illness, and people who have it may suffer needlessly for years or even decades.

Effective treatments are available that greatly alleviate the suffering caused by bipolar disorder and can usually prevent its devastating complications. These include marital break-ups, job loss, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide.

Here are some facts about bipolar disorder.


AWARENESS

Manic-Depressive Illness Has a Devastating Impact on Many People.

  • At least 2 million Americans suffer from manic-depressive illness. For those afflicted with the illness, it is extremely distressing and disruptive.

  • Like other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder is also hard on spouses, family members, friends, and employers.

  • Family members of people with bipolar disorder often have to cope with serious behavioral problems (such as wild spending sprees) and the lasting consequences of these behaviors.

  • Bipolar disorder tends to run in families and is believed to be inherited in many cases. Despite vigorous research efforts, a specific genetic defect associated with the disease has not yet been detected.


D/ART: A National Educational Program


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has launched the Depression/Awareness, Recognition, and Treatment (D/ART) campaign to help people:

  • Recognize the symptoms of depressive disorders, including bipolar disorder

  • Obtain an accurate diagnosis

  • Obtain effective treatments

D/ART Also:

  • Encourages and trains health care professionals to recognize the signs of bipolar disorder and utilize the most up-to-date treatment approaches

  • Organizes citizens' advocacy groups to extend the D/ART program

  • Works with business and industry to improve recognition, treatment, and insurance coverage for depressive disorders

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