Introduction to Bipolar Disorder and Mood Disorders
Mood Swings vs. Mood Disorders - Discovering Bipolar Disorder
People use the term mood to describe the emotional tones that color their daily lives. Moods are everywhere and ubiquitous; everyone has them. Moods may be happy or sad; energized or sluggish; embodying various combinations of emotional states. Moods consist of feelings as well as the thoughts and judgments that give feelings their meaning. An anxious mood may shift into an excited mood with a simple change of perspective, and a depressed mood may shift into a happier one upon hearing pleasing news. Moods are typically transient things that shift from moment to moment or day to day, but they can be prolonged states as well which color the whole psychic life for long periods of time.
While people's moods rise and fall as various life events are experienced, most moods never become that extreme or feel uncontrollable. As depressed as an average person might get, it won't take too much for them to recover and start feeling better. Similarly, happy and excited moods are not easily sustainable either, and tend to regress back to a sort of average mood. Most people can't stay too depressed or too happy for any length of time.
In contrast to people who experience normal mood fluctuations are people who have Bipolar Disorder.
People with bipolar disorder experience extreme and abnormal mood swings that stick around for prolonged periods, cause severe psychological distress, and interfere with normal functioning.
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Bipolar Disorder (also known as Manic-Depression, or sometimes Bipolar Affective Disorder), is a category of serious mood disorder that causes people to swing between extreme, severe and typically sustained mood states which deeply affect their energy levels, attitudes, behavior and general ability to function. Bipolar mood swings can damage relationships, impair job or school performance, and even result in suicide. Family and friends as well as affected people often become frustrated and upset over the severity of bipolar mood swings.
Bipolar moods swing between 'up' states and 'down' states. Bipolar 'up' states are called Mania, while bipolar 'down' states are called Depression. Mania is characterized by a euphoric (joyful, energetic) mood, hyper-activity, a positive, expansive outlook on life, an inflated sense of self-esteem or grandiosity (a hyper-inflated sense of self-esteem), and a sense that most anything is possible. When in a manic state, bipolar people tend to demonstrate a decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, rapid speech (wherein the words won't come out fast enough to keep up with their racing thoughts) and heightened distractibility. Manic individuals typically show poor judgment and impulsivity, and are prone to engaging in risky or dangerous behaviors and activities.
Depression is, more or less, the opposite mood state from mania. Depression is characterized by feelings of lethargy and lack of energy, a negative outlook on life, low or non-existent self-esteem and self-worth, and a sense that nothing is possible. Depressed individuals tend to lose interest in things that used to give them pleasure and enjoyment (such as sex, food or the company of other people). They may sleep too much or too little. Regardless of how much sleep they actually get, they tend to complain about feeling constantly tired and fatigued. Their mood tends to be dysphoric (e.g., distressed, negative, unhappy), although they may experience dysphoria in different ways. Traditional depressed mood (e.g., sadness, melancholy), irritability, short temper, and even agitation are common mood states reported by depressed people with bipolar illness. Additionally, anger, guilt, failure and hopeless feelings may be present. Such negative feeling states help depressed people lose confidence in their abilities, become pessimistic about their futures, and (sometimes) conclude that life is no longer worth living.