Overview | Types | Causes | Symptoms | Risks factors | Complications | Diagnosis | Treatment | Lifestyle tips |
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness, which involved extreme shifts in moods, energy levels, etc. It is also known as bipolar disease or manic depression. It includes two types of moods or ‘poles’. One extreme mood or ‘pole’ is called mania or hypomania (it’s less extreme but similar to mania), in which you may extremely energetic, creative, social, and talkative. Whereas, in the other mood or ‘pole’, you can feel depression, hopelessness, sluggishness, etc. Since, this disorder involves two ‘poles’ means extremely different behavior, therefore it is called bipolar disorder. The poles or extreme moods are called mood episodes, which have a proper gap of a few days or weeks between them. One must know that in mania, your feelings can be extremely high but in hypomania, the symptoms of mania are in a milder form and the patient doesn’t hallucinate, unlike mania.
Most of the people affected by bipolar disorder, remain in depression mood episode for a much longer time than they remain in mania or hypomania.
Changes in energy levels, sleep patterns, focus ability, and many other features can dramatically change the behavior of an individual. Changes in moods or mood swings are extremely high in the case of bipolar disorder in comparison to normal ones. Psychosis, Delusions, paranoia, hallucinations, etc. Are some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is hereditary. About 80-90% of cases of bipolar disorder caused due to hereditary. Although the specific causes of bipolar disorder within the brain are still unclear, it is believed that an imbalance of brain chemicals leads to a dysfunction in brain activity. This results in bipolar disorder. Although this theory is not proved yet, it is just an estimation. The average age of onset is 20 to 25 years old in bipolar disorder.
All these features and uncertainty about behavior make the patient separate from their friends and family. Undoubtedly, it also affects their professional life and work.
Types of Bipolar Disorder:
There are mainly three types of bipolar disorder known. Theses are as follows—
- Bipolar I disorder – In this, you must have experienced at least one manic episode, which may be followed by a hypomanic or depressive episode. This type of disorder affects men and women, equally. People with this disorder have a higher tendency to have suicidal thoughts than general people.
- Bipolar II disorder – In this, you have had at least one major depressive episode that lasts for a minimum of 2 weeks and at least one hypomanic episode lasts for 2 weeks minimum, but you have never had a manic episode. Depression is a dominant stage in this type of disorder.
- Cyclothymic disorder – In this stage, people have symptoms of hypomania and depression both. The symptoms of this type of disorder are shorter and less severe than the other two types of disorder explained above. People with cyclothymic disorder experience only one or two months of stable mood at a time.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder:
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is still unknown. But some factors can lead to this condition. Some of the factors are as follows —
- Biological differences
- Abnormalities in the structure or functions of the brain
- Extreme stress
- Traumatic experiences
- Physical illness
- Family history (increases the risk about six to eight times)
- Imbalance in neurotransmitters and hormones etc.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder:
Different people experience different symptoms. For some, an episode lasts for several months or years. Whereas some may have ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ at the same time or quick succession.
Some symptoms according to mood episodes are as follows —
- Mania or Hypomania
- Feeling weird
- Missing tasks
- Feeling able to do anything
- Engagement in risky behavior
- Feeling euphoric
- Speaking rapidly
- Talking a lot
- Jumping from one topic to another
- Having racing thoughts that come and go quickly
- High level of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-importance
- Increased libido
- Being aggressive sometimes
- Sleeping little without being tired
- Depressive mood periods symptoms
- Extreme sadness
- Sleeping problems such as insomnia
- Sense of guilt sometimes
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Sensitivity to noises smells and other such things
- Disinterest in daily task and work
- Trouble in focusing and remembering things
- Extreme tiredness, fatigue, and restlessness
- More or less food consumption
- Pain or physical problem
- May feel to attempt suicide
- Feeling sadness, despair or hopelessness, etc.
Alcohol consumption and drug can make the symptoms worse.
- Being female
- Anxiety disorders
- High level of stress
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Seasonal depression
- Anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Drug and alcohol consumption
- Suicide attempt
- Legal or financial problems
- Poor performance in workplace or school
- Relationship problems
- Eating disorders
- ADHA etc.
Diagnosis of bipolar disorder is not an easy task, as the symptoms and mood swings may vary. If the most depressive periods last for a week at least, one-week-long symptoms or that make you hospitalized, etc. Are some of the factors which can suspect your condition as mania.
To diagnose bipolar disorder, one test result is not enough. You have to go through some or several test to get diagnosed. Some tests and exams which can help your doctor in diagnosis are as follows —
- Physical exam – A full physical exam including blood and urine test is needed in this diagnosis, to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
- Mental health evaluation – Your doctor may refer you to mental health professionals, i.e. psychologist or psychiatrist to get a proper diagnosis of your condition. Mental health professionals are specialists to diagnose and treat mental health problems such as bipolar disorder. They may ask you some questions ad try to study your symptoms to get a proper diagnosis.
- Mood journal – If your doctors suspect any behavioral changes in you, then they may suggest maintaining a mood journal. In a mood journal, you have to keep a record of what, how many times, and how long you have any symptoms and such other information including your eating and sleeping timings.
- Diagnostic criteria – The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders is an outline of symptoms for various mental health disorders. Doctors can follow the list to confirm a bipolar diagnosis.
There are several other ways of diagnosis also.
- Mood stabilizers such as lithium
- Anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (ISRT)
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
- Sleep medications etc.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle with the routine of eating and sleeping especially
- Learn to recognize mood swings
- Don’t hesitate to go for a diagnosis or meet with a psychiatrist
- Seek help from family and friends if needed