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What is a manic depressive

01:00 Mon 25th Mar 2002 |

asks artisan:
Someone who suffers from manic depression, or bipolar affective disorder. He or she will have extreme mood swings, but how long they last varies on the individual.

In the depressive state, the symptoms are virtually identical to those of manic depression, and include:

  • feeling down
  • lethargy
  • sleeping problems
  • losing or gaining weight
  • inability to concentrate
  • low self-esteem and self-confidence
  • feelings of guilt and helplessness
  • finds no pleasure in life
  • low libido
  • considering suicide.

Q. How can you tell the difference
With bipolar affective disorder, the periods of depression are less likely to be triggered by a specific cause. A period of depression can often be followed by a manic episode that can last anything from a week to months. During a manic episode a sufferer will have high energy levels and be extremely sociable. At first, this may be seen as a positive sign of getting over the depression, but it will soon become clear that the mood is a bit over the top.

In a manic episode, the sufferer will:

  • talk�rapidly - often too quickly to understand
  • get very irritable
  • have over-optimistic and flamboyant ideas about what they can achieve
  • not�need much sleep
  • hallucinate in some cases.

Q. Who gets it
It affects both men and women, and we all have a one per cent chance of developing it to some extent at some point in our lives. Single episodes are usually triggered by a stressful life event.

Many people display the first symptoms as children; other typical ages for the first symptoms to appear are around 18 and over 40.

Bipolar affective disorder runs in families and, bizarrely, is 20 times more common in people who work in the creative arts.

Q. How is it treated
First it needs to be diagnosed, so a visit to a GP is essential. The depressive episodes are treated in the same way as others types of depression - often with therapy and antidepressants. Manic episodes are treated with antipsychotic drugs. In the longer term, lithium may be used to prevent relapses, but this needs careful monitoring, as too much can be dangerous.

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By Sheena Miller

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