Bipolar disorder; also known as manic depression, manic depressive disorder or bipolar affective disorder; is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated moods, clinically referred to as mania or, if milder, hypomania. Individuals who experience manic episodes also commonly experience depressive episodes or symptoms, or mixed episodes in which features of both mania and depression are present at the same time. Individuals with the illness have continual changes in energy, mood, thought, sleep, and activity.

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be difficult and a careful longitudinal analysis of symptoms and episodes, enriched if possible by discussions with friends and family members is often crucial. The onset of full symptoms generally occurs in late adolescence or young adulthood. Untreated, it can be a devastating long-lasting disorder; a known phenomenon of kindling occurs in bipolar disorder whereby the more mood episodes a person has, the more sensitive their brain cells become and individuals are more likely to have future episodes marked by increased frequency, severity and more resistance to treatment. Compliance with treatment is a big struggle for people who have bipolar disorder and a big part of our treatment focus here at The Cairn Center. Dr. Shaily Jain emphasizes the importance of mood stabilizers, understanding the flux in symptoms and episodes and establishing a strong treatment relationship with a competent physician.

There are widespread problems with social stigma, stereotypes and prejudice against individuals with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and we also focus aspects of treatment  towards dispelling the misconceptions, acceptance of the unique condition that is bipolar disorder, and embracing many positive attributes associated with the illness like creativity, goal striving, and positive achievements.

For many individuals with bipolar disorder a good prognosis results from good treatment, which, in turn, results from an accurate diagnosis. Many individuals with bipolar disorder can live full and satisfying lives. Quite often, medications are needed to enable this. Mood logs, compliance with treatment, managing subtle changes that might indicate the onset of a mood swing in close consultation with a physician, consistent sleep schedule, regulated stress levels, responsible lifestyle choices, and avoiding self-medication with alcohol and other mood-altering drugs are strategies that promote recovery, reduce recurrences and improve prognosis.