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Vincent van Gogh was a famous Dutch artist known for being eccentric, but few people know that he also struggled with what is commonly called bipolar disorder. In fact, over 2.5 percent of the U.S. population suffers from this neurobiological disorder. Bipolar disorder does not discriminate between men and women affecting both equally. The illness is found in all age groups, ethnic groups and social classes.
Bipolar disorder causes a person to suffer extreme mood swings that include intense emotional highs and lows. These manic episodes cause a sufferer of this disorder to be on a roller coaster of emotions experiencing acute mania at one moment and great depression the next moment. During an onset of mania the individual will feel full of energy and in ecstasy. Their mood will be joyful and they will feel like they are on cloud nine. When the pendulum swings and the mania subsides, the mood will shift to depression. This causes the sufferer of the disorder to feel hopeless and they will lose all interest in activities.
Some sufferers will experience severe mood swings only a few times a year, but other people with the disorder will struggle and combat the mood swings several times a week. These wild mood swings are usually unrelated to what is happening in a person's life. These episodes will affect the thoughts, behavior, feelings and physical health of the individual.
It is still unknown what causes bipolar disorder, but we do know that it is the sixth leading cause of disability. Research is trying to pinpoint the origin and cause of the disease and some progress is being made. Studies reveal that people diagnosed with bipolar disorder will have an imbalance in naturally occurring brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Doctors have also seen that the disorder may be hereditary. Research shows that over two-thirds of people suffering from bipolar disorder have at least one close relative that also suffers from the illness.
Interacting with a person who has bipolar disorder can be challenging and confusing. One minute there will be laughter and the next moment sadness. The person can go from being extremely engaging and full of energy to isolating oneself and pushing everyone away. The key is good communication between everyone involved. It also helps if everyone knows what to look for and how to handle it. Many times the person suffering from bipolar disorder will not be pleasant to be around if they are experiencing either a manic episode or entering into a fog of depression. Seeing the signs and understanding the disorder will greatly enhance the relationship and reduce the chance of a major relationship breakdown.
At this time there does not exist a cure for bipolar disorder. However, there are various treatment options available for doctors and therapists to treat people with bipolar disorder. Medications are one option, but people will respond to medications in different ways. The doctor will try different medications and see how the person responds. Some medications will cause side effects and the patient should always inform their doctor about any side effects that they are experiencing. Psychotherapy has also been shown to work when treating bipolar disorder. Therapy can help the person change their behavior and provide them with tools to better manage their lives. It also helps them to better engage their family and friends in the process and helps everyone gain a better understanding of the disorder.
Bipolar disorder can be treated and individuals suffering from the illness can get better. It does take time and requires commitment. Some things that will help someone stay on course is talking to a doctor, staying on all medications prescribed, getting enough sleep and learning to recognize mood swings. Also, asking a family member or friend for help will be key to keeping a balanced lifestyle. A person with bipolar disorder does not have to put life on hold and can actively engage fully in all that life brings.
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