Bipolar disorder or manic depression

Bipolar disorder or manic depression, also called bipolar depression, is a genetically inheritable condition. This opposes normal 'unipolar' depression, which oftentimes does not have a fundamentally biological cause.

What is a bipolar disorder or manic depression?

The bipolar disorder is different from normal depression because of its bipolar character, first of all. Bipolar means that you are very down and depressed during one period, while you can get out of this depression and suddenly become very euphoric during another period. You become euphoric, also called manic, to such an extent that you risk making unrealistic or dangerous decisions. Often, family members are the ones who first notice that there is something dangerous going on. The most common danger is a financial one. Because of the euphoric feeling in the manic phase, you think you can do anything, risking that you spend more money than you can realistically do. If you are not careful, you will get indebted and become unable to pay these debts, which can lead you to get back into a depression.

An example of bipolar disorder or depression

One day an entrepreneur, owner of a sole proprietorship, came home and enthusiastically told his spouse that he had good news: he decided that he could get his company to grow quickly and just came home from the salesman after signing a contract to buy 18 trucks for his one-man business. His spouse panicked, because she realized that this would lead to a lifelong debt. And yes, often it is so that there is nothing to be done after someone has signed a legal contract. This example illustrates how horrible the consequences could be from the euphoric feelings during the manic phase of the bipolar disorder.

How do you recognize the bipolar disorder of manic depression?

  • The extreme alternations between feeling very down at one moment and euphoric the next moment are a main characteristic of the bipolar disorder or depression.
  • Furthermore, the presence of the illness in genetically related family members is a large clue.
  • Financial debts are often a hidden symptom of the bipolar disorder or depression.
  • During manic period you promise a lot, promises which you can not fulfill.
  • During manic periods you stay up late, having a hard time falling asleep, or even having the feeling that you need little or no sleep at all.
  • Slumping down after the manic periods and sliding back into a depression.

 Antidepressants? Treatment or therapy of the bipolar disorder

The bipolar disorder or manic depression should first of all be treated with medication. It is best to speak with a psychiatrist with experience in picking antidepressant medication, because that is something which requires a specialist. The psychiatrist will most likely prescribe a combination of an antidepressant as well as Lithium. The problem with this is that the dosages must be strictly followed in the blood because low dosages often do not work, while high dosages of Lithium can poison our nervous system. The problem is that the line between the 'therapeutic dose' and the 'toxic dose' is very thin, which means strict follow-ups by a specialist are required. Luckily, most people with depression do not have a 'real' manic depression or bipolar disorder, meaning there are many other help resources available, such as the online self-help program ''.

Bipolar disorder: treatment with the online self-help program?

Can you treat a bipolar disorder with the online self-help program? The answer to this is nuanced. Yes, if you take your prescribed medication and have follow-ups with your doctor or psychiatrist: in that case, this online self-help program can be a very good way to learn how to deal with your mood-swings. We find it, however, very important to point out that medical guidance is necessary for treating bipolar disorder.

Treating normal depression with online self-help?

For many people who have small mood-swings but no diagnosis of an actual bipolar depression, the self-help program definitely is a good treatment. For them, medication is often not needed, meaning they can work with the program without using antidepressants. Most of these people do not need a follow-up with a specialized psychiatrist, but they might want to discuss their development with their doctor.

How do you test whether you are depressed or not?

Take the free online depression test here to see if you are depressed.

Paul Koeck, MD