Managing Bipolar Disorder
Today most people identified with manic-depression present a different picture of the condition: Not only is depression the most pervasive feature, the manic phase is usually a mix of irritability, anger and depression, with or without euphoria.
By Hara Estroff Marano, published on November 01, 2003 - last reviewed on April 11, 2007
Twenty-five or so years ago, most people diagnosed with bipolar disorder were middle-age adults who had distinct euphoric episodes. Today most people identified with manic-depression present a remarkably different picture of the condition: Not only is depression the most pervasive feature of the illness, the manic phase is usually a mix of irritability, anger and depression, with or without euphoria. In fact, euphoric mania is the exception, not the rule.
Today the average age of onset of bipolar disorder is 19. It's not clear whether there is a rising incidence of the disorder in younger people or it is just being recognized more in children and adolescents.
But now as then, bipolar disorder most often remains undiagnosed and untreated. Experts say that severe manic depression afflicts 1 percent of the population and 5 percent of Americans have a less florid form of the disorder.
Consider these statistics:
• It takes an average of 20 years for a person with bipolar disorder to be correctly diagnosed.
• In 37 percent of patients the disorder is mistakenly diagnosed as unipolar depression—even after a manic episode.
• Two-thirds of manic episodes do not involve elation but rather irritability or even depression.
Should a manic depressive be lucky enough to learn that his suffering has a name and an array of treatment possibilities, there are still formidable hurdles. Surveys show that 50 percent of sufferers do not take the prescribed medications.
The problem may not always lie with the patient, although the manic-side energy and impaired judgment provide powerful incentives...