Bipolar Spectrum Disorder

2013 Bipolar Update

Bipolar Spectrum Disorder

The medical term bipolar spectrum disorder is a general classification referring to a wide array of mood swing disorders characterized by fluctuations between elevated mania and depressive cycles. Bipolar spectrum disorder is an umbrella classification that includes the more common Bipolar I Disorder and Bipolar II Disorder. Other mental problems classified under the bipolar spectrum include cyclothymia and subsyndromal conditions, among others.

For doctors who are diagnosing the illnesses and prescribing medication to treat the conditions, a thorough understanding of any specific case is important. This is done by using a 4-letter naming system to identify the combinatory and severity aspects of the illness.

In this system, M stands for serious or severe mania symptoms while D is used to refer to severe depression up to the limit of unipolar cases. It should be noted that unipolar cases are pure depression episodes and the patient does not posses the tendency for mania mood swings. Completing this classification is the letter m which is used to refer to hypomania and d for low-level depression.

From here, classifying any specific diagnosis becomes more systematic even if it still needs certain qualification. For example, the majority of bipolar spectrum disorder patients exhibit mD cases. The classification system says that patients with mD symptoms have greater tendencies for serious depression punctuated by hypomania. Further manifestations of bipolar spectrum can be characterized as either m, M, D, d, mD, and Md. A definitive diagnosis of these conditions serves as the basis for prescribing the proper medication.

Deeper analysis of cases characterized as bipolar spectrum disorder will also look at the frequency of cycling between both conditions. This is another indication of the exact nature of the condition. As specified in medical literature, rapid cycling mD presents as a very different case from traditional mD and therefore requires a different approach.

Unfortunately, there is no standard method or conclusive measurable indicator to perform a diagnosis of bipolar spectrum disorder. Even today, doctors rely on a combination of medical history and physical examinations to determine the extent of the condition. This can cause great subjectivity in the final diagnosis and may led to delayed administration of the appropriate medication until after a more conclusive diagnosis is reached.

Still, the prevalence of bipolar spectrum disorder is giving the medical community plenty of data that it is currently using to refine its understanding of the illness. In the future, there’s no doubt that improved understanding of bipolar spectrum disorder will increase the chances of a faster, more definitive diagnosis leading to more effective medication.

Until then, doctors are placing their hopes on early detection by friends and family who should raise the red flag early upon observing suspicious and abnormal behavior from loved ones. Indeed, only through the vigilance of family members and the skills of doctors would patients stand a better chance of getting out of the quagmire due to bipolar spectrum disorder.