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Bipolar Disorder Essay Examples

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Bipolar disorder is a mental illness in which people suffer from emotional instability. Depression, anxiety and schizophrenia are the only more common mental health problems worldwide. There are extreme changes to their mood where they can be overly happy and energetic for a period of time but severely depressed and lethargic later. Medicine and therapies are used to treat bipolar disorder. Major depression is when people feel dejected for long periods of time which can affect their everyday life. According to the Mental Health Foundation (2016), 1 in 6 people over 16 have a common mental health problem. These people suffer from low self-esteem so do not participate in activities they usually enjoy. Major depression can be caused by stressful events such as the loss of a loved one or losing your job. Major depression can cause people to be lazy, struggle to sleep and can even cause people to be suicidal. Major depression is treated using therapies and medicine. Both illnesses can have dangerous outcomes so must be treated. They are treated using similar procedures so there is a debate whether they are distinct illnesses or not.

Although there are similarities between the diagnosis of the two disorders, there are also some differences.

Before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, sufferers are referred to psychiatrists that will asks questions to find out if they the patient has the disorder and will decide the most suitable treatment if they do. They will be asked about symptoms and how long they have experienced them for as well as if they have had thoughts about self-harm. They will also ask about the patient’s medical history and the medical history of family members. Patients will also be tested to see if the patient has an underactive or overactive thyroid.

Before being diagnosed with major depression, sufferers are expected to speak to their GP if they continuously experience symptoms of depression that are not improving for more than 2 weeks. They speak about those experiences and whether they have any suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm. They are asked how their mood effects everyday activities, relationships and work. There are no physical tests for depression like there is for bipolar disorder. Depression is determined by your health and how you feel mentally and physically as a result of symptoms. Discussions with your GP will remain confidential.

Both diagnoses investigate thoughts involving self-harm, this is because both disorders involve sufferers experiencing extremely low mood and self-esteem. However, only the diagnosis of bipolar disorder involves a physical test to test for overactive thyroid which can lead to nervousness and anxiety or an underactive thyroid which can lead to tiredness and weight gain. GPs may however check a patient’s urine or blood when diagnosing major depression.

One difference there is between bipolar disorder and major depression is gender differences.

The Adult Psychiatry Morbidity Survey (APMS) (2014) used the Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ) to assess bipolar disorder. This questionnaire was self-report including 15 items based on DSM-IV criteria. Results showed that 2% of the participants tested positive for bipolar disorder however there was no significant difference in rates for women and men. 2.1% were men and 1.8% were women. This shows that there are no gender differences between men and women when it comes to bipolar disorder.

Fink et al (2015) conducted a study where they analysed two cross-sectional studies on young people aged 11-13 which were run on 2009 and 2014 in secondary schools with a sample of 3,366 adolescents in total. Mental health was assessed using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) which consisted of 25 items. Students completed them during the school day on computers. Results showed that girls had a significant increase in emotional problems from 2009 to 2014 which boys did not show. Boys, however showed a slight decrease in total difficulties. This shows that there are gender differences when it comes to major depression.

These two studies show that bipolar disorder and major depression should remain distinct as there one is affected by gender and the other is not. However, one of the studies is on adults and the other is on adults so any differences that may have been displayed for adolescents with bipolar disorder may have been missed.

A similarity between the bipolar disorder and major depression is that they both have age differences. The research conducted by the Adult Psychiatry Morbidity Survey also showed that the younger age groups had more people with bipolar disorder. 3.4% of those aged between 16 and 24 were diagnosed with bipolar disorder whereas only 0.4% of those aged between 65-74 were diagnosed. No one older than 75 years was diagnosed. This shows that there are age differences when it comes to bipolar disorder.

The office of national statistics (2013) measured ‘satisfaction with health’ and ‘evidence of mental ill-health’ and how they were related to well-being. information found on respondents that showed depression varied across age groups. Those aged between 50-54 showed the highest indication of depression which was 22% and those aged between 65-69 showed the lowest indication of depression which was 14%. Those aged between 16-24 also showed significantly lower indication of depression compared to those aged 50-54 at 17%. This shows that there are age differences in relation to depression diagnosis.

These two studies both show that there are age differences when diagnosing bipolar disorder and major depression so one may assume that they are similar, however the age differences of the two conditions have different patterns. For bipolar disorder, there is a negative correlation between age and having bipolar disorder. There are less people with the disorder in older age groups compared to younger ones. However, for depression it is not as simple. The percentage of people with depression increases as the age group is getting older up until it reaches 50-54 where it starts to decrease until 70-74 where it increases again after that. This shows that although there are age differences within the two conditions, they are still distinct as the age differences are completely different.

Another similarity between bipolar disorder and major depression is that they both can be influenced by genetics. There is research evidence to support this claim.

For example, McGuffin et al (2003), conducted twin studies on bipolar disorder. 67 pairs of twins (30 monozygotic and 37 dizygotic) were diagnosed based on the DSM-IV criteria. A two-threshold model and a correlated reliability model were used to estimate the effect of environment and genetics on bipolar disorder. They found that the heritability of bipolar disorder was 85% using narrow-sense concordance and 89% using broad-sense concordance. No shared environmental influences were found. This demonstrates that bipolar disorder is highly heritable.

McGuffin et al (1996) conducted a twin study to find the relationship between genes and major depression. 177 (68 monozygotic and 109 dizygotic) people who suffered from major depression were studied as well as their cotwins. Assessments were carried out on the other twins and proband wise concordances were used to compare the two. Results showed that concordance was 46% in monozygotic twins and 20% in dizygotic twins. Based on the DSM-IV criteria, heritability of major depression was found to be between 48% and 75%. This shows that major depression is highly heritable.

Both studies show that both bipolar disorder and major depression have genetic influences they may seem to be the same condition, however, major depression also has environmental roots which bipolar disorder does not have such as loss of a loved one or childhood trauma. This shows that the two disorders are distinct.

To sum up everything that has been stated so far, both bipolar disorder and depression have very similar elements. Both involve extremely low moods and thoughts of self-harm. They are both affected by age and both have genetic influences, however there are also many differences. Bipolar disorder also includes mania, where the sufferer experiences extremely high moods, hyperactivity and euphoria which is not present in those that suffer major depression. Moreover, bipolar disorder is not influenced by gender whereas for depression sufferers, women tend to have more emotional problems. Although there are many similarities between the two disorders, the differences significantly outweigh them and therefore they should be seen as two distinct mental illnesses.

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