What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a disorder of the brain that leads to sudden alterations in the mood, activity and energy levels and the capacity to perform routine activities. Bipolar disorder is also referred as manic depression.
Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings from extreme highs to depression. Bipolar disorder can lead to strained relationships, poor school or job performance, and also increased the incidence of suicide.
Causes and risk factors
Several factors are thought to be responsible for bipolar disorder including:
- Genetics: Bipolar disorder often runs in families. However, a majority of the children with a family history of bipolar disorder may not develop it.
- Brain function and structure: Few studies report that people with bipolar disorder have different brain makeup than normal individuals.
- Neurotransmitter imbalance has been linked to bipolar disorder.
- Certain stressful events in life may trigger bipolar disorder. Examples include monetary issues, the demise of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse.
Symptoms and signs
Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme mood swings from depression to extreme highs (mania).
The symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling sad and miserable
- Feeling tired
- Experiencing difficulties in concentration
- Losing interest in routine activities
- Having pessimistic outlook, self-doubt, be disillusioned and suicidal ideation
The symptoms of mania include:
- Feeling elated or joyful
- Getting agitated or irritated easily
- Talking rapidly
- Be delusional and having hallucinations
- Having feelings of self-importance
Individuals with bipolar disorder may have more frequent episodes of depression than mania and vice-versa. Such individuals may also believe in irrational things and have hallucinations.
The physician on suspecting bipolar disorder might refer one to a psychiatrist for diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
Several tests and examinations are done to rule out other possible conditions. These may include:
- Psychological evaluation: The psychiatrist might question one about the feelings, thoughts and pattern of behaviour. A questionnaire might be provided to assess such symptoms.
- Mood charting may be recommended by the physician to maintain a daily record of mood swings to arrive at an appropriate treatment plan.
Bipolar disorder may be of:
- Bipolar I Disorder—It is characterised by a week of mixed or manic symptoms of severe nature requiring medical attention immediately. Depression lasting for at least two weeks also can occur.
- Bipolar II Disorder— It includes patterns of hypomanic and depressive episodes without mixed or manic episodes.
- Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified— Here symptoms of bipolar disorder occur but do not fall either in bipolar I or II types.
- Cyclothymic Disorder—a minor form of bipolar disorder.
Treatment and prevention
Based on the requirements of the individual suffering from bipolar disorder, treatment may include:
- Medication: Medications like antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antidepressant-antipsychotic drugs may be decided by the physician.
To arrive at the right medication, it may take several weeks to months. Depending on the side-effects and progress, medications may be changed or dosage may be adjusted.
- Psychological treatment could be via interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy, psychoeducation and counselling.
- Changes in lifestyle giving a feeling of achievement, physical activity and improving one’s diet.
There are no proven ways to prevent bipolar disorder, however, early treatment can prevent the illness from aggravating further.
If left untreated, bipolar disorder may lead to:
- Substance and alcohol abuse
- Suicidal ideation or attempts
- Personal, social, financial issues
- Absenteeism from school or work
If diagnosed with bipolar disorder, one must be on the lookout for the warning signs for preventing any full-blown episodes of bipolar disorder. Prescribed medications should be taken regularly and street drugs and alcohol should be avoided.
Red flags to watch out include:
- Poor sleep pattern
- Suicidal ideation
- Unstable mood, interfering with daily routine work
- Hunger cramps
- Sudden loss of interest in daily chores
Copyright © 2018 Modasta. All rights reserved
- Bipolar disorder in children and adolescents. National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed 22 Feb. 16. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder-in-children-and-adolescents/index.shtml
- Bipolar disorder in children and teens. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Accessed 22 Feb. 16. http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=13107
- Bipolar disorder. NHS-UK. Accessed 22 Feb. 16. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Bipolar-disorder/Pages/Introduction.aspx
- The diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder: Decision-making in primary care. The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders. Accessed 22 Feb. 16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4195640/