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Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depressive Illness

Treatments for Bipolar DisorderProfessional Help, Types Of Medication, Psychotherapy, Education, Taking Care Of Yourself

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 8.3 percent of American adolescents suffer from some form of depression. Unfortunately, statistics also show that two-thirds of depressed people never seek treatment for their disorders. This is particularly true in the case of teens with manic depression.

Depression can leave you feeling so down and hopeless that getting help seems impossible. Meanwhile, common manic sensations of euphoria and extreme self-confidence leave you feeling on top of the world. In between both mood extremes, days, months, and even years can go by during which you feel normal.

John, nineteen, remembers the first signs of bipolar disorder. “I must have been thirteen and I went around for a couple of weeks feeling really depressed. I could barely get out of bed in the morning. My mom worried, but my dad said it was just my hormones acting up. He said he had been a moody adolescent, too.

“Well, sure enough the depression passed. It wasn't until six months later that I spent a week feeling so hyper that I couldn't sleep or even sit still. However, that manic week passed, too. It took four more years and lots of ups and downs before I finally saw a psychiatrist and discovered that my moods were more than just a few hor mones acting up.”

Often, the person best equipped to discover that something is wrong is you. If your extreme moods are beginning to interfere with your life, start keeping a daily journal in which you record your feelings. Rereading the journal over time can help you put your behavior into perspective. If your reactions worry you, try to get some help. Like cancer, manic depression is a serious illness. If you discovered that you had cancer, you wouldn't wait for it to go away or try to cure it yourself—you would see a doctor. The same goes for bipolar disorder.

While bipolar disorder is a chronic disease with no cure, ongoing, carefully monitored treatment can control almost all symptoms and allow you to lead a full life. It is essential, however, that you get a proper diagnosis as soon as you recognize your symptoms. According to the NIMH, an estimated 20 to 40 percent of adolescents who fail to treat major depression develop bipolar disorder within five years. So early detection is important. As with cancer, the earlier you begin treatment, the better.

As we saw in chapter 4, adolescents often experience both depression and manic depression in ways that are quite different from adults. Diagnosing, treating, and monitoring teens with manic depression therefore requires specific expertise. When getting professional help, make sure the psychiatrist and other doctors you consult have experience working with depressed adolescents.

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Science EncyclopediaBipolar Disorder and Manic Depressive Illness