Bipolar Disorder
  Information about Anna's mental disorder...


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Bipolar Disorder:

A mood disorder characterized by drastic mood swings, from major depressive episodes

to either manic or hypomanic episodes.  A manic episode is characterized by high energy, inflated self-esteem, grandiosity, a reduced need for sleep, and racing thoughts.  A hypomanic episode is similar but lacks the intensity or severity of a manic episode.


Lithium is an alkali metal appearing on the Table of Periodic Elements.  It can be found in its salt form, as lithium chloride, in the Earth and dissolved in water.  Its usefulness in the treatment of mania was discovered by an Australian psychiatrist in the 1940s, but it wasn't widely used during the next decade because psychiatrists considered it too toxic (Grilly, 1989).  In a different form (lithium carbonate), this element is therapeutically effective in the treatment of bipolar disorder, but produces side effects indicative of its toxic nature, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and so forth.  With time-release capsules, lithium can be maintained at a fairly constant blood level around the clock, minimizing its side effects.

Lithium controls a person's moods by preventing the wild oscillations between mania and depression that are characteristic of bipolar disorder.  How it acts and what part of the brain it affects is not well understood.  It is believed to work by altering the balance of electrolytes in normal neurons, and by altering the functioning of many different types of neurotransmitters (including serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine, and GABA).  For example, it decreases the effects of norepinephrine and increases those of serotonin.


* Lithium works for approximately seventy percent of all Bipolar patients, including Anna.

   Consult your doctor as to which medication is best for you. *






"A Disease?  THANK GOD!"

"'Anna, I have suspected for some time now that you may have a condition that I want to discuss with you.  I didn't make this diagnosis before because it's a very difficult one to make.  It is a diagnosis that comes with a painful stigma, and I didn't want to hang you with that and be wrong.  Don't be frightened, but I think you are manic-depressive.'

Even now, it's weird to tell you what my reaction was.  In my entire life I had heard the words

"manic-depressive" only three or four times--in some completely unrelated way, certainly nothing to do

with me.  But the words just made sense.  As my psychiatrist said them, I remember nodding my head as if I had known this all along.  They were the best two words I ever heard.  They described how it felt to be me."

--From A Brilliant Madness


* The hotline for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is 1-800-950-NAMI *


Buy Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke, which deals a lot with Anna's personal bouts with

Bipolar Disorder.

A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic-Depressive Illness tells not only Anna's own struggles with the

illness, but co-author Gloria Hochman's research about the disease in general. Places to go for help are also

incorporated in this book.

Buy other books on Bipolar Disorder on

Buy Manic Depression: Voices of an Illness and listen to Anna narrate this Peabody Award-winning

audio tape.



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