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What are the characteristics of the bipolar disorders? As a clinician, what symptoms would you look for to make the diagnosis? If someone in a family is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, how are other people in the family affected?

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What are the characteristics of the bipolar disorders? As a clinician, what symptoms would you look for to make the diagnosis? If someone in a family is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, how are other people in the family affected? Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person's mood, energy, and ability to function (Mental Help Net, 2004). Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. Bipolar Disorder is broken down into two types: Bipolar I: For a diagnosis of Bipolar I disorder, at least one manic or mixed episode clearly is or has been present (APA, 2000). DSM-IV Criteria for Bipolar I Disorder consists of: One or more Manic or Mixed episodes Commonly accompanied by a history of one or more major depressive episodes, but not required for the diagnosis. Manic or Mixed episodes cannot be due to a medical condition, medication, drugs of abuse, toxins or treatment for depression. Symptoms cannot be accounted for by a psychotic disorder. ...read more.


manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with 3 or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for 1 week or longer. If the mood is irritable, 4 additional symptoms must be present (APA, 2000). Signs and symptoms of depression (or a depressive episode) that I would look for include: * Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood * Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism * Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness * Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex * Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being "slowed down" * Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions Restlessness or irritability * Sleeping too much, or can't sleep Change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain * Chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical illness or injury * Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts A depressive episode is diagnosed if 5 or more of these symptoms last most of the day, nearly every day, for a period of 2 weeks or longer (APA, 2000). Treatment of clients with bipolar disorder involves initial and ongoing patient education (Soreff, 2004). ...read more.


Partial hospitalization also offers a bridge to return to work (Soreff, 2004). Returning directly to work often is difficult for patients with severe symptoms, and partial hospitalization provides support and interpersonal relationships. Other ways the family is affected and ways the family can help an individual with a bipolar disorder (Soreff, 2004): First, look at areas of stress and find ways to handle them. The stresses can stem from family or work, but if they accumulate, they propel the person into mania or depression. This is a form of psychotherapy. Second, monitor and support the medication. Medications make an incredible difference. The key is to get the benefits and avoid adverse effects. Patients are ambivalent about their medications. They recognize that the drugs help and prevent hospitalizations, yet they also resent that they need them. The job is to address their feelings and allow them to continue with the medications. The third aspect involves the clinician and family and the subject of education. The clinician must help educate both the patient and the family about bipolar illness. They need to be aware of the dangers of substance abuse, the situations that would lead to relapse, and the essential role of medications. Support groups for patients and families are of tremendous importance. ...read more.

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