May 24, 2024

Manic Depressive Disorder

Manic Depressive Disorder, also known as Bipolar disorder, is often accompanied by dramatic mood swings.   Individuals who suffer from Manic Depressive Disorder often experience grandiose delusions, sleeplessness, psychosis and manic highs.  After the manic highs, these patients fall into a deep depression and lethargy.  Almost six million people have been diagnosed across the United States totaling 2. 5% of the population.  It often strikes in early adulthood or in teenage years.

Although Manic Depressive Disorder starting in elderly patients or children is not unheard of, it is far less common than among the high school and college aged crowd.  Genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors all play a role in a patient’s risks of being diagnosed with the disorder.   With proper treatment, patients can look forward to one day living life normally.

What is Manic Depressive Disorder?

Manic Depressive Disorder is often a genetic disorder although environmental factors also can play a role in its development.   It normally starts among people aged 15 and 25 although it can rarely affect children or the elderly.  Often, it occurs in families and is passed down from generation to generation.  A family history is often a key indicator that mood swings and depression are caused by Manic Depressive Disorder.

Patients with this disorder have feelings that change between clinical depression and mania.  Mood swings can alternate every few weeks or even in short time frames of a few minutes.  If the mood swing happens in a short period of time or occurs frequently, it is called rapid cycling.  Manic Depressive Disorder can cause changes in the way people think, problems functioning socially and an altered perception.

Although some people who are diagnosed suffer from very few symptoms or problems in their normal life, others have a high incidence and relapses.  Untreated, patients may require hospitalization to prevent them from engaging in risky behaviors during manic episodes.  During depressive episodes, the patient may also require hospitalization to prevent them from committing suicide.  Since the disorder can turn the patient into a danger for themselves and society, approximately 90% of manic depressive patients have been hospitalized at some point in their lives.  Without treatment, this disorder has a high incidence of relapse.

Symptoms of Manic Depressive Disorder

During the clinical depression part of the cycle, patients may experience:


  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite and energy
  • Overeating that leads to weight gain
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and a lack of self-worth
  • Difficult concentrating and memory problems
  • Restlessness and sadness
  • Headaches and chronic pain
  • Loss of interest in their favorite activities and pastimes
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
  • Insomnia

Once the depression switches to mania, a patient will experience a new range of symptoms that are just as disturbing.


  • Grandiose notion
  • Increased sexual desire
  • Inappropriate social behavior, elation and irritability
  • Racing thoughts
  • Poor judgment
  • Increased energy
  • Insomnia
  • Engaging in Risky behavior

If someone is experiencing a decreased need for sleep, exuberance, increased energy or productivity, or is engaging in risky behaviors, they may be going through a hypomanic episode.

People with bipolar disorder often experience different degrees of these symptoms.  Most people with this condition lead stable, productive lives.   In a very small percentage of people the symptoms are much  more severe and extreme.  In bipolar disorder I a person may experience psychosis and breaks with reality.  Again, this happens to only a very small number of people and only in extreme cases.

A doctor will generally perform a physical exam and work with the patient to evaluate the symptoms they are experiencing.  They will discuss a patients a medical history and talk with family members to get more details about hypomanic episodes.  To rule out other possibilities, they may perform tests in a laboratory.

Risk Factors

The first risk factor is a family history of Manic Depressive Disorder.  More than ten million Americans currently have been diagnosed with Manic Depressive Disorder.  With this psychological disorder, people across racial, economic and gender lines are affected in equal portions.  On average, the onset occurs around the age of 25.

People who have a close relative with Manic Depressive Disorder are significantly more likely to develop—children who have two parents with Manic Depressive Disorder have a 50% to 75% chance of developing it.  If they just have one parent suffering from the disorder, their chances of developing it fall to 15% to 30%.  In identical twins, there is a 40% to 70% chance that the other will develop the disorder if their twin is already suffering from it.

Since even in identical twins there is not a 100% chance of developing it if the other has it, scientists hypothesize that a variety of lifestyle and environmental factors can play into it.  Stress, a lack of sleep, excessive alcohol usage or drug addiction can all play a role.  Clinical studies have shown that 50% of people who have this disorder self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.  Whether this effect is causative or correlative has not been established yet.

On average, Manic Depressive Disorder tends to strike after a major, stressful life event.  From losing a job to a death in the family, these events can trigger the onset of a depressive state.  Scientists theorize that patients with a prior imbalance in their hormones or problems with their neurotransmitters may be susceptible to the stress that major changes cause.  After reviewing the link between hypothyroidism and Manic Depressive Disorder, they have theorized that hormones play a role in the severity of the disorder.


After the diagnosis is made, patients can be treated with mood stabilizing drugs.  Some of these drugs include: benzodiazepines, anticonvulsants, lithium and antipsychotics.  As a treatment, lithium has been successful used for over a century.  Lithium tends to take several weeks to take effect, so it is often used for continued treatment rather than treating immediate episodes.  During depressive states, the patient may be prescribed a range of antidepressants.

Across the United States, 2. 5% percent of people suffer from Manic Depressive Disorder.  Totaling six million people ,most of these patients develop symptoms in their teens or the start of their 20s.

Seeking treatment is the first step towards recovering and learning how to live a normal life.  With the incidence of risk-taking behavior and suicidal thoughts, this disorder should never be dismissed or treated lightly.  Consistent, continued treatment is necessary for patients to recover and be free from the effects of Manic Depressive Disorder.