Bipolar disorder and manic depression are generally used interchangeably as terms describing a disorder marked by mood swings that are not a result of outward causes. Several disorders ranging from mild to severe are included in bipolar disorder and manic depression. Those afflicted with these disorders have great difficulty in dealing with day-to-day life. Naturally, these difficulties affect their friends and family.

Getting a Diagnosis

So someone you care about has an unexplained bout of depression. It may last for more than six months. Nothing you do appears to help. He or she needs to sleep nearly all day and wakes without refreshment. There is no interest in usual activities.

There is a marked lack of self-esteem and even self-loathing. You become aware of the danger of suicide.

Obviously, bipolar disorder and manic depression are not the first problems that come to mind. Only about 1% of the American population has such problems. Far more common is simple depression. How can it be manic depression when there is no mania?

Perhaps the first evidence of a problem is the mania. The elevated mood is too elevated. This person you care about is talking too fast and too much and about things that you don’t really understand.

And the extreme irritability and anxiety don’t seem to you like mania. Theres an unusual amount of energy, which might seem to be a good thing, but the reduced need for sleep is worrying.

Engaging in risky behavior will get your attention and if this first mania is like nearly half of manic episodes, there could be delusions, hallucinations and even voices. You would think that such a set of symptoms would be easy to identify, but most people with bipolar disorder and manic depression first exhibit symptoms during their teens and early twenties.

Often, the first thing that friends and family fear is drug abuse and, unfortunately, both drug and alcohol abuse, are signs of a manic episode.

It is difficult for the layperson to diagnose bipolar disorder and manic depression. Sadly, it is almost as difficult for the experts. Be prepared for severally misdiagnoses and treatments that dont work because they are meant for other disorders.

Remember that this person you loved cant just “snap out of it."

Supporting the Treatment

Once you have a diagnosis and a treatment that finally helps, you may feel that the hard part is over. With bipolar disorder and manic depression, thats never completely true. Each person with the disorder is different than most every other one. Moods can cycle rapidly for one person while another is either manic or depressed for many months at a time.

Some sufferers have long cycles of normalcy with only a brief episode of mania or depression every few years. Sometimes even a good treatment cant completely prevent some level of mood swings. Because of the unpredictability of bipolar disorder and manic depression, your patient can believe that he or she is cured and stop treatment.

Your job is to be patient with your friend. Don’t take it personally when a mood swing seems to take him or her away from you. Watch for the signs that an episode may be coming and help with the coping mechanisms that work. Love may not be enough, but its something that everyone needs.

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