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--- An MDDA-Boston Member
an affiliated chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)


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About Bipolar Disorder or Manic Depression

Affective disorders include both depression and manic depression. Manic depression is often characterized by cycles of manic and depressive behavior.

Common symptoms of the manic phase of bipolar disorder or manic-depression include:

  • Heightened mood, exaggerated optimism and self-confidence
  • Grandiose ideas and delusions, inflated sense of self-importance
  • Decreased need for sleep without experiencing fatigue
  • Excessive irritability and/or aggressive behavior
  • Increased physical and mental activity
  • Racing speech, flight of ideas, impulsiveness
  • Poor judgement or reckless behavior such as spending sprees, rash business decisions, or sexual promiscuity.
Common symptoms of the depressive phase of bipolar disorder or manic-depression include:
  • Prolonged feelings of sadness, anxiety, or hopelessness
  • Sense of impending doom or disaster
  • Reduced enjoyment and pleasure
  • Loss of energy and motivation
  • Low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Indecisiveness, reduced concentration, slow thinking
  • Significant changes in appetite and/or sleep patterns
  • Social withdrawal
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Key Facts About Bipolar Disorder

  • According to the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, manic-depression or bipolar disorder affects 2.5 million adult Americans sometime during their lifetime.
  • While people can be afflicted anytime during their lifetime, a typical age of onset for bipolar disorder is in the range of 18 to 22 years.
  • Bipolar disorder is one of the most treatable mental illnesses, with proven treatment strategies available for people afflicted with the illness. When properly treated, 90 percent of people with mood disorders can be helped.
  • Two out of three people with mood disorders do not get proper treatment because their symptoms are not recognized, blamed on personal weakness, or misdiagnosed.
  • On average, people with bipolar disorder see 3.3 doctors before receiving a correct diagnosis.
  • On average, it takes eight years to be correctly diagnosed for bipolar disorder.
  • Fifteen to twenty percent of people with untreated bipolar disorder commit suicide.


  • Many bipolar members of MDDA-Boston employ a mix of proper medication, good therapy, and peer support and education to manage their bipolar illness.
  • Medication regimes can vary widely, and many of our members take a combination of meds to treat their disorder.
  • Mood stabilizers such as Lithium, Depakote, or Tegretol are typically used to smooth out the highs and lows and achieve greater mood stability. Newer mood stabilizers include Neurontin and Lamictal.
  • Anti-mania or anti-psychotic drugs are often used to control manic or psychotic tendencies. Newer meds in this category range from Zyprexa and Seroquel to Risperidol.
  • While depressive episodes can be a feature of bipolar disorder, many of our bipolar members cannot tolerate conventional anti-depressants such as the SSRIs (Proxac, Zoloft, Paxal) or Effexor due to their risk of precipitating a manic episode. A number of bipolar folks are now using Wellbutrin to treat depressive episodes due to its short half-life and therefore theoretically better manageability if it precipitates a hypomanic episode.
  • Alternative medications, such as Omega-3 fatty acids , also show great promise for treatment of bipolar disorder.

Treatment Services & Referrals
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Email or Contact us at 617-855-2795
Our Office Hours: Tues-Wed-Thurs, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
Hotline services are available through other organizations
PO Box 102. 115 Mill Street. Belmont, MA 02478. Fax: 617-855-3666
Last Update: November 27, 2005

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