Mumbai: Bipolar disorder, previously defined as manic depression, can be defined as "the swinging or cycling of moods from one extreme to the other. That is, very low mood spells to very high ones," explains psychiatrist Shefali Batra.

Given the taboo nature of nature of issues concerning mental health in the country, several people are likely to be less open to the idea that they could suffer from this mood-altering, chemical imbalance in their brains, and thus seeking treatment is rarely an option.

This can prove counterproductive as if untreated; the condition is likely to progressively worsen, according to Dr Batra. No one is entirely immune to the disorder, but we can help ourselves by trying to maintain a stable lifestyle.

We may not have control over the biological aspect (chemical imbalances in the brain), but attempts to think positive and surround ourselves with the positive people does help in preventing drastic fluctuations in mood. Avoiding alcohol and drugs is also helpful.

Types of Bipolar

There are several types of Bipolarism, including I, II and III, which are merely indicative of the different levels of severity of the same disorder, with Type I being the most severe. Typically, people only seek help during a depressive phase, which is often why incorrect diagnoses are common.

Bipolar has a genetic composition, so if there is a medical history of Bipolarism in your family you may be predisposed towards it. Medical treatments begin with diagnosis. Mood-stabilizing medications are available for balancing the shifty membranes in your brain, which are responsible for mood swings.

Unfortunately, no medication is 100% effective. Rather, treatment is aimed at a management of symptoms and avoidance of hospitalisation and self-destructive suicidal behaviour. Having a good support system is also vital.

The disease is often romanticised, because of its association with exceptionally creative and talented figures, including Edgar Allan Poe and Vincent Van Gogh, which can serve as a helpful reminder that sufferers can lead a fulfilling and productive life, provided they remain committed to the diagnosis and treatment. As psychiatrist Shraddha Gandhi points out, "Being educated about Bipolarism is half the battle won."

Catherine Zeta-Jones

She was recently admitted to be suffering from Bipolar disorder. The stunning Welsh-born actress was diagnosed relatively late in comparison to most people, in whom the onset is between 18 to 25 years of age. Her manic depressive episode was triggered by the event of her husband Michael Douglas' diagnosis with throat cancer.

Dr Gandhi agrees that such a depressive phase may be triggered by such severe emotional crises. After spending 5 days at Silver Hill Psychiatric Ward in Connecticut, Zeta-Jones is said to be "feeling great, and looking forward to starting work." She plans to continue to manage her condition through the right medication, lifestyle and a positive outlook on life.