Massage & Bodywork

May | June 2014

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42 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k m a y / j u n e 2 0 1 4 education Bipolar Disorder Living at the Edge of Experience By Ruth Werner Bipolar disorder, sometimes called manic depression, is a common, severe, and progressive mood disorder. It appears in several subtypes, but the unifying factor is fl uctuation between depression and mania: the two extreme ends of the arc of human moods, with minimal time spent between them in the "normal" zone. People with bipolar disorder live at the edges of human experience. Bipolar disorder, sometimes called manic depression, is a common, severe, and progressive mood disorder. It appears in several subtypes, but the unifying factor is fl uctuation between depression and mania: the two extreme ends of the arc of human moods, with minimal time spent between them in the "normal" zone. People with bipolar disorder live at the edges of human experience. Bipolar disorder affects about 2.6 percent of the US adult population—about 2.3 million people. Of those, 83 percent have a severe form of the condition. Bipolar disorder can be diagnosed at almost any age, but it usually appears between late adolescence and early adulthood. About half of all patients are diagnosed by age 25, but symptoms often appear years before an accurate diagnosis is made. Men and women are affected about equally by bipolar disorder, but this condition is often misdiagnosed in its early manifestations. Consequently, women are far more likely to be originally diagnosed with major depressive disorder (also called unipolar depression), while men are most likely to be initially diagnosed with schizophrenia. PATHOLOGY PERSPECTIVES ARC OF THE EXPERIENCE Imagine an arc that represents a range of moods, with balance and high function at the highest point. On the left-hand side of the arc, visualize severe depression. In this morass, pleasure does not exist. Never has, and never will. Voices whisper to you about your worthlessness. Others are plotting against you. You can't sleep, but you can't get out of bed. You can't concentrate or remember anything. The only thing that absorbs you is the increasingly attractive thought of ending it all. Oblivion beckons. Climbing out of the muck of severe depression we fi nd moderate depression: less debilitating, but you're still not able to function at your best. At the highest part of the arc we fi nd normal, balanced function. Color returns to the world. Normal hiccups of everyday life do not break your stride. Successes are celebrated, but they don't lead you to take unhealthy risks. You are functioning at, or close to, your peak capacity. Most of us, thankfully, live the majority of our lives in this middle section of the mood range. Now, slipping down toward the right side, we fi nd hypomania: a state of elevated or irritable mood, often connected to a creative pursuit, or a strongly— even obsessively—driven activity. Your self-esteem is soaring. In this state, you begin to ignore things you don't consider relevant, so you can focus on whatever catches your attention. And, at the far right side of the arc, we fi nd mania: the drive that pushes hypomania to pathological levels. High confi dence in your work gives way to grandiose psychedelic fantasy. You are Severe Depression Moderate Depression Moderate Depression High functioning High functioning Hypomania Hypomania Mania

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