The statistics suggest that four episodes in ten years is an average, without preventative treatment. Every individual with bipolar disorder has a unique pattern of mood cycles, combining depression and manic episodes, that is specific to that individual, but predictable once the pattern is identified. Research studies suggest a strong genetic influence in bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. It is often not recognized as a psychological problem, because it is episodic. Consequently, those who have it may suffer needlessly for years without treatment.
Effective treatment is available for bipolar disorder. Without treatment, marital breakups, job loss, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide may result from the chronic, episodic mood swings. The most significant treatment issue is noncompliance with treatment.
Most individuals with bipolar disorder do not perceive their manic episodes as needing treatment, and they resist entering treatment. In fact, most people report feeling very good during the beginning of a manic episode, and don’t want it to stop. This is a serious judgment problem.
As the manic episode progresses, concentration becomes difficult, thinking becomes more grandiose, and problems develop. Unfortunately, the risk taking behavior usually results in significant painful consequences such as loss of a job or a relationship, running up excessive debts, or getting into legal difficulties.
Many individuals with bipolar disorder abuse drugs or alcohol during manic episodes, and some of these develop secondary substance abuse problems.