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Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depressive Illness)

Health Resources

Everyone of us has experienced mood fluctuation at sometimes in our life. Our mood can change several times a day from happiness to sadness, from excitement to boredom. However, some people experience dramatic changes in mood that may affect their daily living.

In such circumstances, they may be diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

The essential feature of bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive illness or manic depression) is a cyclic illness in mood which may shift from deep, frightening depression to extreme excitement, or elation. The initial episode that leads to hospitalization is usually manic. Both sexes are equally affected.

There does not appear to be a relationship between race and this illness. The age of onset is frequently in late adolescence or the early 20s. For many patients, episodes recur every few years; a few patients have frequent cycles per year.

Some patients have manic or depressive episodes as frequently as 4 times a year and this feature is referred as rapid cycling.

With increased age, the interval between episodes may decrease, and the length of episodes may increase.


Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Manic episode: the critical clinical feature of a manic episode is a mood that is elevated, expansive, or irritable. Associated symptoms include part of or all of the followings:

  1. Excessively active in activities which often take the form of sexual promiscuity, political involvement, and religious concern.
  2. Rapid in speech – the patient’s speech is pressured to a point of being impossible to interrupt.
  3. Difficulty in concentrating that thinking and speech move quickly from one idea to the next.
  4. Reducing in sleeping hours – often sleeps a few hours each night and yet has unlimited energy.
  5. Increased self-esteem to the point of grandiosity – the individual feels on top of the world, and being capable in achieving everything.
  6. Easily get distracted by surrounding sounds, people or smells.
  7. Short attention span
  8. Poor judgment – may lead to buying sprees, bad business decision, or dangerous behavior such as abusing drugs or alcohol.
  9. Having delusion that centre on themes of unlimited power and influence.
  10. Having hallucination such as hearing voices or seeing flashing colors and lights that may occur at the peak of the manic episode.

Depressive episode: The critical clinical feature of a depressive episode is a mood that is sad and despaired accompanied with part of or all of the following symptoms depending on the severity of the depression.

  1. Loss of interest in people, work and activities
  2. Loss of energy or fatigue
  3. Appetite change leading to either weight gain or weight loss
  4. Feelings of uselessness, hopelessness and excessive guilt
  5. Disturbed sleeping habits-sleeping too little or too much
  6. Slowed thinking, forgetfulness, difficulty in concentrating and in making decisions
  7. Low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacies
  8. Loss of interest in sex
  9. Crying easily; or feeling like crying but cannot
  10. Thinking about death or suicide


What can you do to cope with your illness?

People with manic depression may need to make some changes in their lifestyle in order to cope better with their illness, changes are such as:

  1. Keep regularity of daily activities e.g. sleeping pattern, exercise
  2. Avoid any alcohol and street drugs
  3. Keep working (part-time, full-time or volunteer work etc.)
  4. Maintain social contact with family members, friends or church members etc.
  5. Compliance with treatments
  6. Seek for professional help


What can family and friends do?

  1. Always listen, avoid argument and show your availability to help
  2. Take every threat or suicidal thought seriously; act immediately if necessary such as calling police, doctor or crisis help line for help.
  3. Keep contact with other helping professionals who are trained to deal with crisis
  4. Assist in money management for patient with his/her consent


Where to seek help?

  1. Consult family doctor/psychiatrist
  2. Contact Hong Fook’s intake staff at 416-493-4242 X 0, or other community service agencies
  3. Contact the Metro Integrated Community Crisis Program at 416-289-2434 when needed
  4. Contact nearby emergency departments