Update: Bipolar Disorder

Posted in: Clinical Trials

More and more is being heard about bipolar disorder these days, in part, because some very well known and highly successful celebrities have courageously come forward to reveal that they have been battling the disorder throughout their lives.  Just by way of example, listed below is a short list of people, many of which may surprise you, who currently do or have suffered from bipolar disorder:

Jane Pauley

Ted Turner


Carrie Fisher

Connie Francis

Patty Duke

Ben Stiller

Jean-Claude Van Damme

Robin Williams

Florence Nightingale

Margot Kidder


In fact, it is estimated that approximately 2.5% of US population (6 million) suffer from Bipolar Disorder.  Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a type of mood disorder in which people can shift between periods or phases of elation and flights of fantasy (commonly referred to as a manic episode) to periods of sadness or depression.


There are actually four basic classes or subtypes of Bipolar Disorder:  Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, Cyclothymia and Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.  Below are listed the essential features of each subtype as described in the

Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM-V®, American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC, 2013).


Bipolar I Disorder:  A key feature of Bipolar I Disorder is “a lifetime history of at least one manic or mixed episode.   Often individuals have also had one or more Major Depressive Episodes.”  The manic episode should be of at least seven days in duration.

Bipolar II Disorder: “The essential feature of Bipolar II Disorder is a clinical course that is characterized by the occurrence of one or more Major Depressive Episodes accompanied by at least one Hypomanic Episode.”

 Cyclothymic Disorder:  “The essential feature is a chronic, fluctuating mood disturbance involving numerous periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms.”  Both the hypomanic symptoms and the depressive symptoms “ are of insufficient number, severity, pervasiveness or duration to meet full criteria for a Manic … or Major Depressive Episode”.

Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified:  People who are suspected of having Bipolar Disorder, but who do not meet the essential features of one of the three other subtypes listed above.


There is a body of evidence to suggest that certain genes and/or a family history may play a role in the development of Bipolar Disorder in some people.  However, even in twin studies, if one twin develops Bipolar Disorder, it does not guarantee that the other twin will also develop Bipolar Disorder.  In fact, there are a number of examples in studies where one twin does go on to develop Bipolar Disorder, while the other does not.  Environment and stress have also been hypothesized to increase the likelihood of developing Bipolar Disorder.


Bipolar Disorder is considered a life long-illness.  Fortunately, Bipolar Disorder is treatable, generally through a combination of psychotherapy and medications.  One of the challenges for patients and healthcare professionals alike is that there may be extended periods of time when patients do not exhibit any symptoms either of mania or depression.  This does not mean that they have been cured or no longer have the disorder.  This is just the natural course this disorder takes over time.

It is for this reason that it is critical that people with Bipolar Disorder remain on their medications continuously.


Research continues to both uncover more about the underlying factors that result in the development of Bipolar Disorder, as well as better, more effective medications to treat the disorder.  Consult your physician or behavioral healthcare professional about your condition and your particular response or the lack thereof to the treatment strategy prescribed for you.  If you continue to be unsatisfied with the side effects or the effectiveness of the medication(s) you are being prescribed, you might want to consider looking into enrolling in one of the various Bipolar Clinical Trials currently being conducted at a medical research facility near you.  Check with your healthcare provider or look on the web.  Two popular sites are Clinicaltrials.gov and CenterWatch.


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