Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings, including periods of two extremes: depressed (low) and manic (high). It is a relatively common health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Studies suggest that it affects men and women equally and can occur at any age, although it typically first appears in late teens or early adulthood.
Bipolar disorder can be challenging to diagnose, as it involves distinct periods of mania or hypomania, as well as periods of depression. In some cases, individuals may only experience manic or hypomanic episodes, while in others, they may primarily experience depressive episodes. Additionally, this disorder can be mistaken for other mental health conditions, such as major depressive disorder or anxiety disorders, which can complicate diagnosis.
Despite these challenges, it is essential to identify and treat bipolar disorder early to minimize its impact on an individual’s life. Because it is a chronic illness, ongoing preventive treatment is recommended to manage symptoms and lead a fulfilling life.
Understanding bipolar disorder can be complex, but here’s everything you need to know:
Symptoms of Bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods when a person may be predominantly depressed, or predominantly manic. In between episodes of neutral mood, a person is likely to be quite well and able to perform daily routines and social interactions with people. The symptoms can vary in severity and duration, causing significant distress in a person’s life. The symptoms may include:
During dysfunctional manic episodes, a person may experience the following symptoms:
- Feeling overly happy, excited, or euphoric
- Having a lot of energy and needing less sleep
- Speaking very fast, jumping from one topic to another
- Feeling restless or agitated
- Having grandiose ideas or unrealistic beliefs about oneself
- Impulsively engaging in potentially risky behaviour, such as spending sprees, reckless driving, or risky sexual behaviour
During depressive episodes, a person may experience the following symptoms:
- Feeling persistently sad, hopeless, or empty
- Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Feeling excessively tired or lacking energy
- Having difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions
- Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
Types of bipolar disorder
This cyclical mood disorder can be categorized into numerous kinds based on the frequency and intensity of mood episodes, including:
Bipolar I disorder
This type is characterized by manic episodes that last for at least a week or require hospitalization. Depressive episodes may also occur.
Bipolar II disorder
This type is characterized by depressive episodes that alternate with hypomanic episodes, which are less severe than full-blown mania but still involve elevated mood and energy.
This is a milder type of bipolar disorder that involves many “mood swings,” with hypomania and depressive symptoms that occur frequently.
Other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorders
This category includes disorders that do not meet the criteria for the above types, such as bipolar disorder caused by substance use or medication
Causes of bipolar disorder
The exact causes of bipolar disorder within the brain are not fully understood; but research suggests that it is often triggered by a mix of genetic, psychological and environmental factors.
This disorder appears to run in families, indicating that there may be a genetic component involved in the condition.
Brain chemistry and structure
Imbalances in neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that regulate mood and behaviour, may contribute to this disorder. Structural abnormalities in the brain, such as changes in size or an imbalance of brain chemicals lead to dysregulated brain activity.
Stressful life events, such as trauma, loss, or significant life changes, can trigger this disorder in vulnerable people.
Treatment of bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder is a highly recurrent severe psychiatric condition that necessitates constant therapy. The treatment’s purpose is to stabilise mood fluctuations and prevent relapses. The aggravation of manic symptoms could be mediated by a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes.
Mood stabilizers, such as lithium and anticonvulsants, are the cornerstone of bipolar disorder treatment. Antipsychotic medications may also be used to control manic symptoms, while antidepressants may be used to treat depressive symptoms.
Different types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and psychoeducation, can help many patients with bipolar disorder learn about their illness, and various coping strategies to manage their symptoms, preventing future mood episodes.
Adopting healthy habits, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and good sleep hygiene, can help individuals with bipolar disorder manage their symptoms.
The information presented in this blog has been gathered from online materials shared by professional and expert groups. It is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. If you believe you may be experiencing a mental health issue that is causing serious disruptions in your work, family, or social activities and responsibilities, it is essential to consult with qualified professionals before taking any action.