UCSD Department of Psychiatry

  Genetics Research Program

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    The following is a compilation of various topics pertaining to bipolar disorder.  It begins with a general description of this illness and continues with a detailed tour through the menu. 


Bipolar Disorder, sometimes called manic-depression, is a mental illness characterized by extreme mood swings.  The person may feel overly happy, high irritable, hyper or unstable during periods of mania.  Mania is also associated with increased energy, racing thoughts, rapid speech, and unusual, erratic behavior.  When depressed, the person may experience extreme sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy, lack of motivation, insomnia and thoughts of suicide.  The person with Bipolar Disorder experiences both of these states and may fluctuate rapidly between them.

            The following is a list of typical symptoms experienced by people who have bipolar disorder: 


Sad or depressed mood  Euphoric or irritable mood
Loss of interest or pleasure Inflated self-esteem
Changes in appetite or weight Decreased need for sleep
Changes in sleep patterns Extreme talkativeness
Loss of energy or fatigue   Racing thoughts
Feelings of guilt or worthlessness Distractibility
Anxiety or restlessness  Getting into trouble
 Inability to concentrate/ make decisions Extremely high activity levels
Thoughts of death or suicide

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Recently, more attention has been focused on the occurrence of mixed mood states in bipolar disorder.  During a mixed state, individuals experience a full range of both depression and irritable mania symptoms, simultaneously.  They feel the painful inner tension of depression along with the overstimulation, increased goal directed activity, and impulsivity seen in mania.  Anxiety can also be a prominent feature of mixed mood states--a type of anxious pessimism full of self-reproach, worry and discouragement.  This can prove to be a very destructive combination for many individuals because the risk of substance abuse, panic disorder, suicide attempts, and other complications increases greatly with mixed states.    

The resulting clinical picture can be quite complex and can therefore  often be overlooked.  Research has indicated, however, that approximately 40% of manic episodes have prominent depressive elements.  A major roadblock when treating someone with a mixed mood state is the possibility of exacerbating symptoms with the use of antidepressants alone.  For example, when an individual comes in for treatment, they most often present with a distressed or sad appearance, expressing feelings of hopelessness/ helplessness, inadvertently masking any symptoms of mania that might also be present. Unless the clinician specifically asks about manic symptoms and/or a family history, the person may be given medication treatment with an antidepressant alone. In many people with bipolar disorder, the administration of anti-depressant medications without a mood stabilizer can cause the onset of manic symptoms, activate rapid cycling, or other complications.



Reading List:    This section contains a listing of books and articles that discuss various issues surrounding bipolar disorder.  Topics include treatment for both patients and families, antidepressant medications, personal accounts from individuals coping with bipolar disorder, and many more.  You may find additional titles and ordering information in the book list provided on the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association web site ( ).  If you have any questions about these or other references, please click Contact Information" to reach one of our research staff members. 

Support Referrals:    This menu option provides information about various national organizations that specialize in treatment and support for individuals and family members dealing with bipolar disorder and major depression.  You will find a brief description of each organization along with direct links to their web sites.  There is also a short excerpt about the support options offered by our research team.

Articles:    This section contains articles written by Dr. John Kelsoe, the director of our research team.  Most of the topics include information about how mood disorders are inherited throughout a family and other issues surrounding genetics.  Some are more technical than others, so we have provided a short synopsis before each article.

Research:    This selection provides information about the various projects currently underway at our research facility.  The section opens with a welcome statement from Dr. John Kelsoe and moves on to a brief description of each study.

Upcoming Events:     Here you will find information about both local and national events focusing on mood disorders. 


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Last updated: May 10, 2001.