In the last quarter of a century, the face of bipolar disorder has changed dramatically. You may not have noticed it, since this change was more of an evolution than a revolution.

Nonetheless, these statistics reveal just how much has changed in diagnosing bipolar disorder and treatment.

For example, it was just about 25 years ago that the average person diagnosed with bipolar disorder was a middle-aged adult suffering with distinct euphoric - or manic - episodes. Today, the average person identified as having bipolar disorder possesses both the manic-depressive episodes and is much younger. Most individuals who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder are between the ages of 18 and 22.

Moreover, today, depression is the most pervasive feature of bipolar disorder and the manic phase - which was the dominant feature 25 years ago - is now more closely described as a mix of irritability, anger and depression. Very often this cycle of bipolar disorder doesn't even contain the euphoric signals that characterized the disorder of earlier years. Experts, in fact, say that severe manic depression actually affects a mere one percent of the population. Another five percent of Americans have a less intense form of bipolar disorder.

The one common thread of bipolar disorder then and now, though, is the fact that it remains elusive. Bipolar disorder is woefully under diagnosed and for the most part untreated. Even today, it takes an average of 20 years for a person with bipolar disorder to receive a proper diagnosis.

Part of the problem is that the duel nature of bipolar disorder is often either ignored or not recognized in a stunning 37 percent of individuals suffering with it. What's more amazing is that fully two-thirds of the manic episodes involve irritability and anger - even a touch of depression - in the manic episodes of the illness.

But even once the diagnosis of bipolar disorder is made, things don't seem to go much better. A full 50 percent of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder do not take their medication on a regular basis. However, the problem may not be with the person suffering with bipolar disorder in all these instances. While the manic-driven energy and the powerfully-debilitating depressive episodes of bipolar disorder may be partially to blame, the sheer number of drugs is also an impediment to effective treatment.

Moreover, the array of harsh side effects deters many with bipolar disorder from regular use of the drugs. These side effects can include anything from weight gain to dulling of the mind.

Bipolar disorder is such a challenging condition, in fact, that statistics show that nearly 90 percent of marriages which involve a partner with the mental illness eventually end in divorce. Moreover, researchers also say that nearly half - more than 40 percent - of individuals with bipolar disorder abuse either alcohol or drugs - or both.

If that's not serious enough, up to one quarter of those with bipolar disorder die by one of three methods: suicide, accident or are killed as a result of fights triggered by a manic episode of bipolar disorder.