Bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic-depressive disorder) is a diagnosis in the field of psychiatry that refers to a range of mood disorders characterized by the presence of one or more occurrences of abnormally increased energy levels and mood that may or may not include one or multiple depressive episodes as well. The elevated mood, clinically known as mania, is often paired with an accompanying depressive mood, though some may experience the manic and depressive episodes at the same time, manifesting certain features of both simultaneously. The episodes are frequently followed by times of “normal” mood; however, rapid cycling, where mania and depression alternate rapidly over a period of time, may also occur in some cases.
Treatment for bipolar generally involves a combination of pharmacological and psychotherapeutic techniques. Voluntary and, depending on state regulations, involuntary hospitalization may be necessary in order to most effectively manage manic or depressive episodes. The most effective medication for treating acutely manic episodes is lithium carbonate, which has been strongly linked to preventing relapses and curbing suicidal thoughts in manic patients. Certain anticonvulsants are also used for treatment, depending on whether the patient is undergoing a manic or depressive episode, and the severity of the episode in question.
Various kinds of psychotherapeutic approaches are also used to help with bipolar disorder, and can be as important as the proper medication in lowering the severity of manic and depressive episodes and their chances of relapse. Cognitive behavioral therapy and family-focused therapy are the most effective when it comes to preventing relapse, with interpersonal therapy being most useful for reducing residual effects of depressive episodes.