Manic depressive disorder is a type of psychiatric illness that belongs to the category of mood disorders. It is otherwise known as bipolar disorder or cyclothymia. Manic depressive disorder, as the name suggests, is characterized by two alternating moods - mania and depression.

Mania refers to the state of mood which makes the individual hyperactive, has very little sleep and yet has high levels of energy, rapid speech which is difficult to follow, inability to focus on one thought, impulsive decisions and actions.There is also the depressive phase which involves an inability to experience joy, loss of interest in day to day activities, inability to feel joy, feelings of low self-worth and guilt, as well as changes in appetite and sleep.

There is also be a sense of extreme ‘sadness’ or ‘emptiness’.There are many types of manic depressive disorder or bipolar disorder based on the duration and severity of symptoms. Its onset usually manifests during young adulthood although, it is also seen in children. In some cases, it is a highly detrimental disorder with long lasting effects. In others, it could manifest for a short span and can be remedied with adequate goal setting and positive changes in lifestyle.

These are associated with episodes of abnormality along with distress and disruption of day to day functioning with a risk of suicide.The current term, bipolar disorder refers to the opposing poles or mood swings in the person. The earlier term manic depressive psychosis was coined in the late nineteenth century by the German psychiatrist Emil Kraeplin.

Diagnosis of the disorder is made based on self observation reports and also through secondary information through family or co-workers or through observation. Early diagnosis and the right treatment from a well qualified health care professional can do wonders for the individual.Bipolar disorder is often hereditary and scientists are investigating this link. However, not all children with a family history of bipolar disorder develop the illness.

The causes could also be biological or environmental. It is believed that a combination of all three contribute to the disorder. Certain viruses can also change brain physiology and contribute to the disorder. Dopamine, an important neurotransmitter in the brain could also be a crucial part of the cause of this disorder. Advanced studies show that dopamine levels and functioning differ in individuals with manic depressive disorder.While the causes are still not pinpointed, treatment and medication has evolved. With early diagnosis, a supportive environment, healthy lifestyle changes and medication, the manic depressive disorder could be treated and an individual can be freed from the inordinate mood swing.

There is significant alleviation of symptoms and often a complete closure to the episode in many cases. Relapses can be avoided with a healthy exercise regime, adequate sleep, counseling sessions and medication.