Bipolar disorder, otherwise known as manic depressive disorder is an illness that belongs to the category of depressive disorders or mood disorders. Manic depressive disorder is also called cyclothymia due to the alternating moods occurring. It is a widespread illness and in the United States alone it is believed that 17.4 million people have it. This means that you would easily know if someone is suffering from this condition, as one out of every seven individuals in the general population are afflicted by this disorder.

An individual suffering from bipolar disorder or a manic depressive state alternates between two mood states - an unusually elevated mood state which is clinically referred to as mania and mood states which include extremely low states of mind which is the depressive phase. Individuals suffering from bipolar disorder or manic depressive disorder will find that mood states vary between these two opposites or may have a normal mood in between the manic and the depressive phase. There may also be a rapid interchange of the two states of mania and depression which is called as rapid cycling. Persons experiencing the manic phase may also have hallucinations and delusions.

While the exact causes of bipolar disorder or manic depressive disorder remain unknown, it is widely believed that a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors play a role in its causation. Certain viruses may also cause bipolar disorder as may chromosomal aberrations.

  The Borna virus which causes serious nervous system damage in animals is seen to cause small changes in the human brain. Sensitive blood testing has shown infection in patients suffering from bipolar or manic depressive disorder. Twin studies have indicated that genetic and environmental factors play a huge role in the onset of the disorder.

  Persons experiencing bipolar disorder often have difficulty accepting that they have a problem. It affects their ability to function socially and also affects their relationship with family and friends. Although the disorder is treatable, many individuals are hesitant to seek a diagnosis.  They also have difficulty accepting that there is something wrong with them. They may even be hooked to the ‘high phase’ where they feel invincible and extremely energetic.

Here are some common signs to look out for to identify the bipolar or manic depressive disorder: 

In case you find yourself with four or more of these symptoms, a medical diagnosis is essential and early treatment can do wonders for you. Recent research has shown that many children who are intellectually accomplished are at a greater risk for the disorder. Some famous individuals who had bipolar disorder include Winston Churchill, Michelangelo, Mozart, Isaac Newton, Picasso, Albert Einstein and Christopher Columbus.

Bipolar disorder is not something that can leave you crippled for life. While you may feel seriously hampered by it in your daily life, the right medicines and therapy can do wonders and leave you completely in control of your life and your moods.

Sources: 1)

2)British journal of psychiatry