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What Does "Bipolar" mean? - Dr Wajda

Mar 06, 2012 07:11AM ● By Nedal

Dr Wajda

What Does "Bipolar" mean?

Unfortunately the term "Bipolar" has become synonymous with the phrase "mood swings." While people with "Bipolar" illness (also known as "Manic-Depression") have mood swings, not all mood swings are "Bipolar." No doubt this is one reason why the diagnosis of "Bipolar" is so popular today. It is a frequently used term heard in the media from Hollywood to self-help books and magazines - a term used to describe almost any mental health condition. By learning about what “Bipolar” actually IS, we can more easily see those situations when it is NOT. Actual Bipolar illness can occur in both children and adults while affecting males and females equally.

There are different types of Bipolar illness but a description of classic "Manic-Depression" gives one a good idea of just what Bipolar illness is. It is just as the name implies - cycling between episodes of mania and depression. "Mania" is an overly-happy, outgoing, and at times irritable mood lasting at least 1 week. Several behaviors accompany mania including: talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts, being easily distracted, taking on several new projects, requiring very little sleep, having an unrealistic belief in one's abilities, and behaving impulsively by taking part in a lot of pleasurable and/or high-risk behaviors (such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments). Depressive episodes are episodes of Major Depression lasting at least 2 weeks (a description of major depression is a separate topic unto itself but a simple explanation is a sadness that causes a loss of interest in daily activities, affects appetite, lowers energy, affects sleep, and impairs concentration).
If mood swings are a problem, don't assume it’s "Bipolar." Medical illnesses, substance abuse, personality disorders, and acute stress are just a few of the reasons for someone to exhibit mood swings. Seek the expertise of a professional to diagnose and treat the problem.

Bradley T. Wajda D.O. - Fresno, CA  
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