Although mood fluctuations are a normal part of life, individuals with bipolar affective disorder experience extreme mood changes. Bipolar affective disorder, or bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive disorder), has been identified as a major psychiatric disorder characterized by dramatic mood and behavior changes. These changes, ranging from episodes of high euphoric moods to deep depressions, with accompanying behavioral and personality changes, are devastating to the victims of the disorder and perplexing to the loved ones of those affected. Prevalence rates have been estimated at about 1.6 (0.8 to 2.6) percent of the American population. The disorder is divided fairly equally between males and females. Clinical psychiatry has been effective in providing biochemical intervention in the form of lithium carbonate to stabilize or modulate the ups and downs of this illness. However, lithium treatment has only been effective for approximately 70 percent of those to whom it is administered. Mood-stabilizing anticonvulsant medications such as Depakote, Tegretol, and Lamictal, are showing promise in helping some people who were formerly referred to as lithium nonresponders. Psychotherapy is seen by most practitioners as a necessary adjunct to medication.
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