Bipolar Disorder

young african american man sitting with head

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness,
is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and
ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes
through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged
relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But there is
good news: bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can
lead full and productive lives.

More than 2 million American adults,1 or about
1 percent of the population age 18 and older in any given year,2 have
bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or
early adulthood. However, some people have their first symptoms during
childhood, and some develop them late in life. It is often not recognized as an
illness, and people may suffer for years before it is properly diagnosed and
treated. Like diabetes or heart disease, bipolar disorder is a long-term illness
that must be carefully managed throughout a person’s life.

“Manic-depression distorts moods and thoughts, incites dreadful behaviors,
destroys the basis of rational thought, and too often erodes the desire and will
to live. It is an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels
psychological in the experience of it; an illness that is unique in conferring
advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable
suffering and, not infrequently, suicide.”

“I am fortunate that I have not died from my illness, fortunate in having
received the best medical care available, and fortunate in having the friends,
colleagues, and family that I do.”

Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., An Unquiet Mind, 1995, p.
(Reprinted with permission from Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random
House, Inc.)