Thesis: Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar Case Study Bipolar

Bipolar hypothetical case study: Katherine

Bipolar disorder "is a chronic and recurrent serious mental disorder affecting up to 1% of the general population" (McDougall 2009). It is often misdiagnosed, particularly in adolescents, a time of life where moodiness is extremely common, and behavior that might seem unusual in other age groups, such as rapid changes in mood, black and white thinking, and unacceptable risk taking seem normal. Bipolar disorder also often goes unrecognized, misdiagnosed, and untreated because its symptoms may be mistaken for depression, during the depressive phase of the illness, and a personality disorder or schizophrenia during the manic phase. However, it is critical that it be treated early: "the peak age of onset is during adolescence and early adulthood…outcome studies have shown that up to 20% of adults with bipolar disorder have experienced initial symptoms before the age of 19" (McDougall 2009).

Case study

Katherine was referred to the mental health center of her university by her roommate in the period shortly before the university was to have its Thanksgiving break, right after midterms. A freshman at a large, city university, Katherine had quickly become an integral part of the college community. She made friends quickly, and was very social and gregarious during freshman orientation. She was often seen drinking at fraternity parties with older students, and was always quick to buy her many new friends some drinks, using a fake ID. According to her roommate, Katherine had experimented casually with drugs, even though she said she had not done so before coming to the university.

Katherine had taken five challenging courses, one more than students usually take at the university. She had done well at first, hardly sleeping and studying long into the night. She would often be talking on her cellphone, writing a paper, and pace back and forth as she spoke. However, her grades began to plummet around Halloween, as after getting 'dumped' by her recent boyfriend, Katherine spent most of her day in bed, not going to classes, and getting up late at night and drinking. She had stopped going to meals as well. When questioned about her behavior, instead of her usual friendly and talkative self, Katherine told her roommate to simply 'back off.'

At first, the roommate thought that Katherine was simply suffering the symptoms of a typical heartbreak. However, then Katherine began to grow agitated. She wrote long letters to her former boyfriend and his new girlfriend, accusing them of betraying her. She also said her professors were 'out to get her' and did not understand her ideas. Katherine had increasing trouble settling to do her work, even though she took piles of books from the library. She often spent the nights going to parties, although she said she was worried about failing. During a particularly restless night, Katherine expressed suicidal ideation, saying she would kill herself if she failed a class. That was when her roommate called the health center.

Interviewing her at the health center revealed irrational thought patterns. Katherine's parents were called. Interviews with her concerned parents revealed that Katherine had often exhibited unstable moods. 'She is the type of person who is always really happy or really sad -- everything is black and white,' said her mother, although they had attributed this to the normal angst of adolescence. They were concerned when Katherine's roommate, a fellow teen, saw their daughter's behavior as abnormal. The mental health center referred Katherine to the local hospital psychiatric ward. Her parents came to see her. A search of her room revealed an unpaid credit card bill of $3,000, mostly on new clothes and entertainment.


As noted in the Journal of Family Practice (2007), "patients with mood disorders can experience a widely varying pattern of mood episodes. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR[R]), presents criteria for each category of mood episode, i.e., major depressive, manic, mixed, and hypomanic. Diagnosis is not based on the presenting episode alone. Rather, the different types of mood episodes serve as building blocks of information that one uses to arrive at the diagnosis."

Katherine's diagnosis was thus derived from a pattern of episodes, not one symptom in isolation. Commensurate with the DMV-IV Bipolar I Disorder, Most Recent Episode Manic: Katherine's "most recent episode" exhibited the characteristics of mania in line with bipolar disorder. She had also suffered at least one major depressive episode and manic episode before, but her mood… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Bipolar Disorder.  (2009, March 30).  Retrieved September 16, 2019, from

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"Bipolar Disorder."  30 March 2009.  Web.  16 September 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Bipolar Disorder."  March 30, 2009.  Accessed September 16, 2019.