Bipolar disorder (bipolar affective disorder) is a mood disorder that was called in the past manic depression or manic-depressive illness. Bipolar disorder is characterized by major mood swings alternating periods of depression with periods of hyperarousal called mania or hypomania. Between depressive episodes on one hand and hypomanic or manic on the other hand, there are periods when the individual's mood is normal, the so-called “euthymic” phases
As with other mental disorders, the causes of bipolar disorder are multifactorial, consisting of an interaction of genetic, congenital, and social factors. Research has particularly highlighted the genetic and biological correlates.
People who suffer from bipolar disorder experience alternating episodes of mood swings such as:
Between these periods there are the so-called “euthymic” intervals during which the mood is normal.
The treatment of bipolar disorder is based primarily on medication first: antidepressant treatment in a depressive phase, and tranquilizer (neuroleptic) in a manic or hypomanic excitement phase. There are medications called “mood stabilizers" whose purpose is to prevent mood swings, for example, Lithium, Valproic Acid, Carbamazepine, Lamotrigine.
In some cases of bipolar disorder hospitalization is necessary, such as when the episode of excitement or depression is too intense. Psychotherapy is recommended to mitigate the impact of mood swings on the overall functioning of the individual. Therapy is also centered on helping the individual becoming more aware of their triggers outside the manic or depressive phase and express their frustrations and concerns in more adaptive ways.
If you have a relative with bipolar disorder, it is important to learn about this disease. It is likely that in a first phase of their affection, they will not recognize the premises of a depressive phase or conversely of a manic or hypomanic phase. You would probably be the one who will spot the first signs and symptoms and encourage them to take adequate measures.