Research Focus

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels, resulting in difficulities carrying out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that people typically go through. Bipolar disorder can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. However, bipolar disorder can be treated and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives. Bipolar disorder often develops in a person's late teens or early adult years, with at least half of all cases starting before age 25.

What is Bipolar Disorder I?

Bipolar Disorder I is mainly defined by manic or mixed episodes that last at least seven days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, the person also has depressive episodes, typically lasting at least two weeks. The symptoms of mania or depression must be a major change from the person's normal behavior. 

Symptoms of mania or a manic episode include:

Mood Changes  A long period of feeling "high," or an overly happy or outgoing mood Extremely irritable mood, agitation, feeling "jumpy" or "wired" 

 Behavioral Changes 
• Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts • Being easily distracted • Increasing goal-directed activities, such as taking on new projects • Being restless • Sleeping little • Having an unrealistic belief in one's abilities • Behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable, high-risk behaviors, such as: spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments 

Symptoms of depression or a depressive episode include: 

Mood Changes
• A sustained period of feeling down or depressed o Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex

Behavioral Changes 
• Feeling tired or "slowed down"  Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions  Being restless or irritable
Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits  Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide 

What is Bipolar Disorder II? 

Bipolar Disorder II is defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, which are more mild versions of the mania symptoms described above. 

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Schizophrenia

Overview

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental disorders, the symptoms can be very disabling.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. In rare cases, children have schizophrenia too.

The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.

Positive symptoms: "Positive" symptoms are psychotic behaviors not generally seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms may "lose touch" with some aspects of reality. Symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Thought disorders (unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking)
  • Movement disorders (agitated body movements)

    Negative symptoms: "Negative" symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. Symptoms include:
  • "Flat affect" (reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone)
  • Reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life
  • Difficulty beginning and sustaining activities
  • Reduced speaking

    Cognitive symptoms: For some patients, the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle, but for others, they are more severe and patients may notice changes in their memory or other aspects of thinking. Symptoms include:
  • Poor "executive functioning" (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Problems with "working memory" (the ability to use information immediately after learning it)

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