Psychiatric Disabilities

Bipolar disorder, which is also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental illness involving episodes of serious mania and depression. The person’s mood usually swings from overly “high” and irritable to sad and hopeless and then back again, with periods of normal mood in between.

Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. It is often not recognized as an illness, and people who have it may suffer needlessly for years or even decades.

Effective treatments are available that greatly alleviate the suffering caused by bipolar disorder and can usually prevent its devastating complications. These include marital break-ups, job loss, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide. (From the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Almost one-third of 6-to-12-year-old children diagnosed with major depression will develop bipolar disorders within a few years, according to a study of 79 depressed children over 2 to 5 years reported in the May 1994 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Most became bipolar before the onset of puberty, and 32% became bipolar at an average age of 11 years. The researchers recommend that those caring for depressed children should be on the lookout for symptoms of manic-depressive illness. They also suggested that, because antidepressants may worsen certain forms of manic illness in adults, prescribing antidepressants for children should be done with care. (From the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)


Schizophrenia is actually a group of disorders. The primary characteristics include:

  • Disturbed language and communication, thought, and perception which lasts longer than six months.


The disorder moves through several phases

  • a noticeable deterioration in social skills
  • marked by delusions , hallucinations and disordered thinking
  • distortions have passed but the person lacks the motivation of before the onset of the disorder

It is possible to experience only one acute phase in a lifetime or to move through the phases in cycles. Neglecting to take the prescribed medication may cause the acute phase to reappear.


Delusions are fixed beliefs that have no basis in reality. Those suffering from this kind of disturbed thinking are often convinced they are famous people or are capable of extraordinary accomplishments (grandisoe delusion), are being persecuted (persecutory delusion) or believe they can not trust the affection of a loved one (irrational jealousy). These three types of delusions also comprise the major characteristics of paranoid disorders.


An abnormality in perception. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling things that are not there.



Scientists are almost certain that schizophrenia has more than one cause. Some possible causes are:

  • Chemical imbalance – some suspect neurotransmitters (the substances which allow communication between nerve cells) while others point to an excess or lack of dopamine (chemical substance in the brain). the limbic system (the area of the brain involved with emotion and perception that acts as a gate for incoming stimuli or messages) is thought to be the are most affected in most types of schizophrenia.
  • Genetic predispostion – genetic tranmission has yet to be proven even though schzophrenia tends to run in some families.
  • Viruses or virus-like particles – some feel that “slow viruses” may be to blame since sighns and symptoms are delayed and may occur many years after the first infection
  • Infections – infections can cause brain inflammation and create changes in the limbic system but have not been linked to schizophrenia.

Associated Links

Canadian Mental Health Association
Vancouver/Richmond Early Psychosis Intervention
BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Info
Mental Health Info Source
BC Schizophrenia Society

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