Bipolar spectrum disorder (BSD), previously known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that results in significant and severe changes in mood, energy, activity levels and ability to carry out routine tasks. These shifts are more severe than the normal ups and downs that most people experience. There is no single cause of bipolar disorder, yet it tends to run in families.
Core symptoms include episodes of both depression and mania, in a cyclic pattern.
Depressive episodes are characterized by:
Manic episodes are characterized by:
There are at least four distinct types:
The distinction between the types is related to the severity of the symptoms; some people experience mild mood swings while others have trouble staying out of hospitals and/or jails.
Left untreated, bipolar disorder wreaks havoc on self-esteem, relationships, job performance and school performance.
Bipolar disorder is often mistaken for depression and/or ADD/ADHD because some of the symptoms are very similar. A physician’s ability to make the distinction is critical. For example: when someone with bipolar takes the wrong medication, such as a stimulant for ADD, their symptoms and cycling can be dramatically worsened. This makes it very important to look at the brain with SPECT imaging.
Unsurprisingly, many people with bipolar disorder wind up self-medicating with alcohol and/or drugs, which further damages their brain while aggravating behavioral and relationship issues.
Even though bipolar disorder is usually quite responsive to treatment, people with this condition typically have poor compliance with their treatment regimen. Often when their symptoms improve, many feel so normal they do not believe they ever had a problem to begin with and stop taking their medications or supplements.
Brain SPECT imaging helps: