What is bipolar disorder?
- Bipolar disorder is a chronic and disruptive disorder. It is characterized by abnormal changes in mood that range between depression and mania (feeling high).
- These mood changes are different and much more severe than what individuals may normally experience during their everyday life.
- In the phase of depression, you mostly feel a loss of interest in activities and people, as well as feelings of sadness and fatigue.
- In the mania phase, you experience feelings of euphoria, which is intense happiness. You also feel an increase in energy and a decrease in your need for sleep.
- These mood shifts occur few times a year over a certain period of time. Periods of stable mood may also be present.
There are two forms of this condition:
- Bipolar I disorder: It is characterized by the occurrence of one or more manic episodes followed by depressive episodes.
- Bipolar II disorder: It is characterized by less intense episodes of mania called hypomania. This type is also followed by depressive episodes.
Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder (RCBD)
- Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is a more intense form of bipolar disorder.
- A person with a rapid-cycling bipolar disorder experiences four or more episodes of depression, mania, hypomania, or a mixed state within a period of one year.
- RCBD is more common among individuals who have an early onset of bipolar.
- It is more common in women than in men.
- Rapid-cycling may not be always present. It may come and go.
What are the causes of bipolar disorder?
- The cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. Many factors may trigger the disease such as the following:
- Genetic factors (having a family member diagnosed with the disorder)
- Hormonal imbalances
- Variations in brain structure
- Environmental conditions such as stress and trauma
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Major life changes may precipitate a person’s genetic vulnerability.
What are the common symptoms of bipolar disorder?
The symptoms of bipolar disorder are characterized by:
- Abnormal and difficult to predict mood changes that range between feeling hopeless and depressed to feeling euphoric and energetic
- Severe changes in energy and behavior
The most common signs and symptoms of mania include:
- Rapid speech
- Feelings of euphoria or feelings of intense irritability
- Increased energy and increased motivation to pursue goals
- Inflated self-esteem
- Racing thoughts, jumping from one idea to another
- Decreased need for sleep
- Spending sprees or unwise financial choices
- Engaging in impulsive and risky behaviors
The most common signs and symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of guilt, sadness and hopelessness
- Decreased or increased appetite
- Problems in concentrating
- Poor performance at work or school
- Loss of interest in activities once considered enjoyable
- Thoughts of death or attempting suicide
Severe episodes of mania or depression may sometimes be associated with psychotic symptoms such as:
Is there a treatment for bipolar disorder?
- There are several effective treatments for bipolar disorder that depend on the severity of the condition. These treatments might be used alone or in combination to achieve the best results.
- Treatment differs from one individual to another; however medications are the primary treatment.
The common treatments of bipolar disorder include:
- A variety of medications are used to target your symptoms. The most common ones include but are not limited to lithium, benzodiazepines, antidepressants and antipsychotic medications.
- The primary treatment for bipolar disorder is with mood stabilizers.
- Treatment should help stabilize the sudden and abnormal mood changes.
- Always make sure to take your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
Make sure to inform your doctor if you are experiencing any of the below side effects of mood stabilizers:
- Dry mouth
- Bloating or indigestion
- Joint or muscle pain
- Brittle nails or hair
- Mood swings
Psychotherapy consists of a series of techniques for treating patients experiencing bipolar disorder.
- Psycho-education is an important part of psychotherapy. It helps the patients suffering from bipolar disorder and their family to better understand the nature of the illness. This will allow better monitoring of symptoms and prevention of relapses. It helps patient identify early on symptoms of a mood episode, and inform his/her physician as soon as signs of an episode are recognized. This allows better management of the disease. It helps the patient have better control over their mood shifts.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)