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WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America
WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America

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Bipolar Disorder

Description: Commonly known as manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder involves mood swings from "high" episodes of mania to periods of depression.

Symptoms: A manic phase includes elation, irritability, paranoia, hyperactivity, talkativity, and the ability to go days without rest. After days or weeks of feeling omnipotent, a profound depression sinks in, entailing sad moods, fatigue, insomnia, excessive sleeping, or shallow, inefficient sleep patterns, weight gain or loss, a loss of interest or pleasure in life, and ultimately thoughts of, or attempts at, suicide.

Number of Americans diagnosed: Between one and two million Americans are thought to suffer from bipolar disorder.

Long-term problems/treatments: Depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder are less likely to have a specific trigger, are not as long, and develop more gradually than those caused by major depression. Lithium has been the standard mood stabilizing drug for bipolar disorder. For the 20% to 40% of patients who do not respond to lithium, drugs ordinarily used for epilepsy can be prescribed.
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