In the DSM it is phrased as bipolar and related disorders. The bipolar diagnosis has evolved over years, and there are various types. We used to call it manic depressive, but what we're finding is that some individuals experience more manic episodes than they do depressive episodes and vice versa. Some individuals have a propensity towards depressive episodes more than manic episodes, but that term is typically used together to delineate someone who might just have a depressive disorder. So one individual might have a depressive disorder, but saying someone has a bipolar disorder distinguishes that they have a depressive disorder in conjunction with a mania disorder. It is important to delineate the difference between the two and understand why and how those two words are used together.
Yes it can be treated. It is important to educate individuals who have bipolar disorder simply because it is a disorder that is known to exist for the duration of their life. It is also a disorder that is known at certain times to become resistant to certain medications that have been used successfully in the past to treat it. Therefore it is important for a patient to see their physician when they begin to experience extreme shifts in their mood or energy. A psychiatrist can recognize the likelihood that their medication has become imbalanced or is no longer being effective, and can prescribe other medications that known to successfully treat bipolar d/o.
Yes, actually it is very common to see a family history of bipolar disorder. That is one of the important questions to ask when you are doing a comprehensive assessment -- "Is there any known family history of mental illness or other mental health d/o or addiction d/o in your family?" Total transparency is important to receive recommendations most appropriate to manage your bipolar disorder moving forward.
Absolutely. There are the classifications of mild, moderate, or severe. The mental health community has made great strides in learning more about bipolar disorder. And currently there's a delineation b/t bipolar I and bipolar II. And within each of those classifications, bipolar I, it can be mild, moderate, or severe, as is the case with bipolar II. The degree of severity helps determine the appropriate course of treatment.
Medication can treat and stabilize a person's bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorders can be managed, but currently not cured.
Depression is a part of bipolar disorder. However, depression is also a single and autonomous diagnosis that one can have and not be bipolar. If you are bipolar there is evidence of patterns of depressive episodes, but if you have a diagnosis of depression, then it is unlikely that there is going to be any evidence there of mania or manic type episodes. The presence of both manic and depressive episodes is what would warrant a bipolar disorder versus a depressive disorder diagnosis.