07 October 2005

Bipolar Awareness Day.

Today is bipolar awareness day, and I'll let sufferer Pastor Dan, over at Daily Kos, inform you.

The symptoms include:

Bipolar Disorder, or Manic Depression, is a serious brain disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. An equal number of men and women develop this illness, and it occurs among all ages, race, ethnic groups, and social classes. Bipolar Disorder accounts for approximately $7.6 billion in direct Healthcare costs in the U.S. while the majority of people with Bipolar Disorder experience an onset of symptoms before age 20, many suffer from 10 years before an accurate diagnosis is made. In the gap between the experience of symptoms and diagnosis, people with Bipolar disorder are at great risk for suicide, substance abuse, or other harmful consequences. There is a strong genetic component related to Bipolar Disorder; however, genetics do not always predict who will develop the disorder. Bipolar disorder is a chronic and generally life-long condition, requiring life-long treatment. Mood swings that come with bipolar disorder can be mild or they can be severe, ranging from "lows" known as the depressive stage, to the "highs" known as the manic phase. This change in mood can last for hours, days, weeks, or even months. Symptoms of mania-the "highs" of Bipolar Disorder include:

Increased physical and mental activity and energy

Heightened mood, exaggerated optimism and self-confidence

Excessive irritability and aggressive behavior

Decreased need for sleep without experiencing fatigue

Grandiose delusions, inflated sense of self-imortance

Racing speech and thought; consistent irrational ideas

Impulsiveness, poor judgment, and distractibility

Reckless behavior

Delusions and hallucinations

Symptoms of Depression-The "lows" of Bipolar Disorder include:

Loss of energy

Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells

Changes in appetite and sleep patterns

Increased feelings of worry and anxiety

Feelings of guilt or hopelessness

Inability to concentrate or make decisions

Social withdrawal

Unexplained aches or pains

Use of chemical substances or alcohol

From a practical perspective, my main experience with bipolar disorder has been as an attorney trying to help parents arrange inheritances for bipolar children in the most useful way. It is one of the two or three most common reasons I am asked to formulate protective trusts.

Our understanding of mental illness and more generally, how the non-pathological brain works, is still in its formative stages. Public understanding of the issue falls far behind the understanding which professional elites now have of these illnesses. Advances in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness over the next few decades, and the changes in public perception of how mental illness impacts people will probably do more to change our society than any advances in the treatment of physical illness in the next few decades -- even major breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer and heart disease that could greatly expand human longevity.

The conclusions will be hard ones to come to terms with, because our historical separation of mind and body for moral purposes makes any form of treatment that deals with the mind a far more sensitive issue than, for example, orthopedic issues. Just as many people now reject evolution, quantum physics and general and special relativity, even more will reject the conclusions that flow from developments in the treatment and understanding of mental illness. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised to see an evangelical Christian led return to a demon possession theory of mental illness by a small, but intense, minority.

We live in interesting times.

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