Often called “Manic-Depressive Disorder,” the symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary quite widely from one individual to the next. Bipolar depression is defined by the psychiatric diagnostic manual as depression in someone who has experienced a distinct period of abnormally elevated, expansive or irritable mood, lasting at least a few days (known as mania or hypomania). During these manic episodes people typically have more energy than usual, need little sleep and often make poor decisions that they later regret.
Recent research shows that bipolar depression usually responds to different treatments than do other depressive disorders. Because people with Bipolar Disorder tend to experience depression more often than mania or hypomania, it is extremely important for a thorough evaluation to differentiate between bipolar depression and other depressive disorders.
Bipolar disorder is one of the most frequently misdiagnosed mental health problems that we see. As such, it has been at the center of a lot of controversy. In recent years, research has recognized that there are several subtypes of bipolar disorder. It has become clear that not everyone with bipolar has classic manic episodes. Some people with this type of bipolar (called cyclothymia or bipolar disorder type II) only notice distinct periods of increased energy, productivity and/or irritability.
In the past, the mainstay of treatment for individuals with bipolar has been mood stabilizers like lithium or Depakote. However, more recent research is finding that there are other things that can be helpful in addition to mood stabilizer medication. Some scientific studies are showing that supplements that optimize the energy production plants of cells (the mitochondria) may help in bipolar depression. Other evidence supports the benefit of omega-3 fatty acids in treating the depressed phase of bipolar illness. Lifestyle factors such as keeping a regular schedule, especially when it comes to sleep, also help.
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