Bipolar Disorder (also known as manic-depression) is defined by severe and often rapid changes in mood, from clinical depression to elevated, or manic, moods. Such mood elevation is called hypomania or mania (depending upon the degree of mood elevation) and can often lead to psychosis and psychotic behaviors.
Why is it Important to Know About Bipolar Disorder?
It is natural to have mood swings, but with Bipolar Disorder these shifts are far more severe. Bipolar patients deal with myriad struggles because of their disorder, from poor job or school performance, to devastated relationships, to disruptions of the most basic aspects of day-to-day life. While treatable, patients often fail to recognize early warning signs and as a result often do not seek help. To complicate matters, Bipolar Disorder tends to get worse without treatment.
What Exactly is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar Disorder (sometimes called manic-depressive disorder) causes serious fluctuations in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior. A typical cycle can last for days, weeks, or even months. The often-rapid shift from depressive lows to manic highs is so serious that it can completely immobilize the patient.
The manic phase is marked by impulsivity and euphoria; patients experiencing a manic phase may abruptly quit their job, spend lavishly and find themselves well rested with just two hours of sleep. Conversely, the depressive phase can be overwhelming, marked by feelings of despair and of suicidal ideation.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
The exact cause is not known, but it is likely hereditary. Usually, the first manic or depressive episode starts during the teen years. The symptoms are usually confusing, with no substantial or conclusive evidence to establish the existence of bipolar disorder. This may result in misdiagnosis and prolonged suffering. Fortunately, proper treatment can result in normal and eventful life.
It is usual for patients with bipolar disorder to go quite some time without displaying any prominent symptoms. In other cases, patients alternate between extreme episodes of depression and mania. However, mania is less likely to be observed than depression. Mania may well be too mild to be noticeable.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder can be diverse in manifestation and it may look very different in different people. The symptoms may vary wildly in both severity and frequency. Many people are more inclined to either depression or mania while others alternate equally between the two. Still others can have more frequent mood disruptions.
There are four recognized types of mood swing episodes in bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, depression, and mixed episodes, with each type having its own unique set of symptoms.
Some of the most common signs of mania are:
- Feeling unusually “high” and optimistic or extremely irritable
- Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs about one’s abilities or powers
- Sleeping very little, but feeling extremely energetic
- Talking so rapidly that others can’t keep up
- Racing thoughts; jumping quickly from one idea to the next
- Highly distractible or unable to concentrate
- Impaired judgment and impulsiveness
- Acting recklessly without thinking about the consequences
- Delusions and hallucinations (in severe cases)
Common Causes of Bipolar Disorder
It is difficult to attribute a single cause for Bipolar Disorder. It seems that certain patients are genetically at risk yet not everyone with an inherited risk develops the disorder, so genes cannot be the only reason. Recent brain scan studies show prominent physical changes in the brain structure, neurotransmitter imbalances, circadian rhythm disturbances, abnormal thyroid function and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol present in such patients.
It is not only the physiological malfunction but also the external environmental and psychological factors that play an important role in development of Bipolar Disorder. Triggers are the known external factors. Triggers may not be a root cause in their own capacity but they have the potential to make existing symptoms worse or set off new episodes of depression or mania. However, there are many instances where the disorder can occur without any obvious trigger. Stress, substance abuse, medication, seasonal changes and sleep deprivation are some of the more prominent triggers of Bipolar Disorder.
Types of Bipolar Disorders
There are various types of Dipolar Disorder characterized by frequency, length, and episodes pattern of depression and mania. Two of the prominent ones are:
Bipolar I Disorder. Bipolar I Disorder is the most severe form, marked by extreme manic episodes. Bipolar I Disorder is easily identifiable with mixed episodes or one or more manic episodes (symptoms of both depression and mania occurring every day for at least a week) and one or many major depressive episodes.
Bipolar II Disorder. It is usually after one or multiple major depressive episodes and minimum one episode of hypomania that Bipolar II Disorder is diagnosed. There may be periods of level mood between such episodes. It is often misdiagnosed as major depression if hypo manic episodes go unrecognized or unreported.
Medication and therapy are the most effective means of treating Bipolar Disorder. Mood stabilizing medications such as lithium carbonate are a good option for controlling the lows and highs of mood swings. Medication must be coupled with psychotherapy to ensure lasting results.
One of the most effective drugs in dealing with the illness is Latuda. Latuda is an atypical antipsychotic drug belonging to the group of antipsychotic drugs (major tranquilizers and neuroleptics) used to treat psychiatric conditions.
While medication and therapy are a “must” for Bipolar Disorder, treatment should often extend into the manner in which the patient lives. Exercise, regular sleep, eating right, reducing stress and surrounding yourself with supportive people can also reduce the effect of Bipolar Disorder.