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Bipolar Disorder

This is a condition where the patent experiences mood swings from extreme happiness to major depression. It is also known sometimes as manic depression.

Bipolar Disorder affects about 1% of the population and is equally prevalent in men and women. The symptoms often begin in adolescence but diagnosis is not usually confirmed until between 20 and 40 years of age. The condition is classified into two types, 1 and 2. Bipolar 1 causes recurrent swings between mania and depression or sometimes both within a short period of time. People with Bipolar 2 do not experience mania but may have episodes known as hypomania, where the symptoms are similar to mania but not severe enough to interfere with normal life. In between cycles, most people with Bipolar Disorder are able to live a normal life, have a job and healthy family relationships.

The cause of Bipolar Disorder is not exactly known. Possible causes could be an imbalance in brain chemicals such as noradrenaline and serotonin, genetics (this condition often runs in families), seasonal affective disorder, alcoholism or dug addiction (could be a cause or an effect), certain viral conditions and other medical conditions such as thyroid disorders.

The symptoms of mania are an elevated mood, reduced need for sleep, irritability, rapid thinking and speech, lack of inhibitions, grandiose plans and beliefs, hallucinations and a lack of insight. In hypomania these symptoms are also present but are not severe enough to cause problems with normal living.

The symptoms of depression include being overwhelmed by sadness and a loss in interest in activities the patient used to enjoy. Sufferers will often withdraw from social interaction and may not even get out of bed. Household chores and personal hygiene may be neglected. The person often stops eating, loses weight, cannot concentrate and experiences feelings of guilt and hopelessness. They may hear imaginary voices and experience delusions. The risk of suicide in such a depressive stage is very high.

A Doctor should be consulted if someone is experiencing any symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. Patients may need urgent hospitalization for the safety of themselves and others. They will most likely to be referred to a mental health specialist. There is no cure for Bipolar Disorder but lifelong management can help to control the symptoms. The treatment varies depending on severity but usually involves medication and counselling. The therapy should include the patient’s family and support people as it is usually more effective when these people are involved.

There are some vitamins and supplements available at the Pharmacy that might help with Bipolar Disorder. These include inositol, omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, vitamin B12, thiamine, pyridoxine and riboflavin (B-group vitamins).

Further information and support is available from:

72 Lower Leeson Street
Dublin 2.

Phone: (01) 6617211
Fax: (01) 6617217

or at

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Kevin McCormack B.Sc. Pharm. MPSI