Bipolar Disorder: A Mysterious and Challenging Mental Health Condition

Introduction

Bipolar disorder is a kind of mental health condition which causes extreme shifts in the mood and behaviour of the person. The symptoms can include a highly elevated mood called mania followed by unpredictable episodes of depression.

Bipolar disorder is also commonly known as bipolar disease or sometimes referred to as a manic depression. People with bipolar disorder may find it challenging to manage everyday life tasks, at school or work, or even maintaining their relationships, with people.

Currently, it does not have any definite cure, but there are many treatment options that are available to manage and control this disorder.

This disease also causes people to suffer from extreme mood swings including emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression) at random frequencies.

The misuse of drugs and alcohol can sometimes lead to aggravated conditions that amplify the symptoms further. When people become depressed, they feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities.

Sometimes the mood of the affected person shifts to mania or hypomania (less extreme than mania), this makes them feel euphoric, full of energy or at times unusually irritable.

These mood swings can affect several areas of normal life; like sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behaviour and the ability to think clearly. Most people with this disorder, suffer from depressive symptoms than the maniac or the hypomanic symptoms.

What is bipolar disorder

This disease can disrupt the functioning of normal daily life and is a lifelong condition. But it can be treated with medications and psychological counselling (psychotherapy).

Why Does Bipolar Disorder Happen?

The exact reasons and causes of this disease are not known. There are several factors that may be involved. Some of these factors are mentioned below.

Genetics

Bipolar disorder is quite common among people who have a close relative such as a sibling or parent who is affected by this condition. Some researchers believe that the genes may also pass on this from person to person.

They are still studying this aspect and hence it may take time to confirm what role the genes play in creating this disorder.

Biological Differences

People affected by this condition seem to have some physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is not clear but may help to understand this condition better in the future.

Scientists are still studying and researching about how biological differences can trigger the Bipolar disorder.

Risk Factors

There are certain risk factors that increase the risk of developing this disorder or may sometimes act as a trigger to initiate it. Some factors like genes, periods of high stress such as the death of a loved one or some traumatic events can trigger symptoms that lead to this disease.

Frequent overdose of drugs, alcohol, Sleep deprivation and certain medication can also trigger this disease.

Different Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar I Disorder (Mania or a Mixed Episode)

This form is depressive and it is characterized by at least one manic episode or mixed episode. It also involves at least one episode of depression. This type of disorder requires immediate hospitalization to prevent harm to oneself or the others.

It is diagnosed when the manic episodes that last for at least seven days or more and are accompanied by psychotic features. The person may suffer from many manic episodes along with some depressive features.

Bipolar II Disorder (Hypomania and Depression)

In this type of disorder, the person does not experience full-blown manic episodes. It involves episodes of hypomania and severe depression. This disorder involves recurring episodes of major depression and hypomania which is a milder form of mania.

Only people who have experienced at least one hypomanic episode and one major depressive episode in their lifetime can be categorized in the Bipolar II disorder.

Cyclothymia (Hypomania and Mild Depression)

This is a milder form of bipolar disorder that consists of cyclic mood swings and the symptoms are less severe than the other full-blown forms. The highs and lows are not severe enough to qualify as either mania or major depression in this case.

This condition commonly occurs in the adolescence stage of youngsters. Most people suffering from Cyclothymic disorder will appear to be normal even though they may sometimes be moody or difficult.

Hence people may not seek treatment and if left unchecked this condition may lead to the risk of developing Bipolar disorder.

Rapid Cycling Pattern

In the “rapid cycling” pattern of bipolar disorder the person can be affected with four or more episodes within a year. The episodes will last for some minimum number of days in order to be considered as distinct episodes.  A pattern of rapid cycling can occur at any time during the course of the disease.

It may sometimes occur at later points in the lifetime of the disease. The rapid cycling affects women more than men and it increases the risk of severe depression or sometimes even leads to suicide attempts.

Some claim that antidepressants may trigger prolonged periods of rapid cycling, but this data is still being studied.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

According to the International Bipolar Association, the symptoms can vary between individuals. Some people may experience highs and lows at the same time or in quick succession while for others it may last for several months or years.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Mania or Hypomania Symptoms

Mania is a more intense symptom and both are related to elevated moods. Some of the symptoms are given below.

  • Poor judgment
  • Less sleep but not feeling tired
  • Sense of distraction or boredom
  • Not performing well at work or school
  • Feeling able to do anything
  • Risky behaviour
  • Feeling euphoric, having racing thoughts, high self-confidence, self-esteem and self-importance
  • Talking rapidly
  • Denying that something is wrong

Depressive Symptoms

  • Extreme sadness and feeling desperate
  • Insomnia and sleeping problems
  • Anxiety about minor issues
  • Tiredness, fatigue
  • Difficulty focusing and remembering
  • Irritability
  • Eating more or less
  • Feeling guilty

How It Can Impact the Life of the Affected Person?

This disease if left untreated can create or result in serious problems that can affect several areas of life. Some common challenges include:

  • Financial and legal consequences
  • Drug abuse and alcohol-related problems
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Problems in interpersonal relationships with adverse effects and consequences 
  • Strange and unexplainable behaviour
  • Frequent and terrible mood swings and behavioural changes
  • Poor performance at work or study
  • Anxiety disorders
  • ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder)
  • Eating disorders
  • Poor Hygiene
  • Physical health problems, such as heart disease, headaches, obesity or thyroid problems

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

It is advisable to get help if the symptoms are spotted among any known person. Ignoring the problem is not the solution since it can only make matters worse.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Hence, it is very essential to diagnose the problem and start the treatment at the earliest; to prevent further complications. People with mania and hypomania can turn destructive and may even hurt people around them.

It requires a long term treatment since it is a chronic and relapsing disease. Doctors can suggest the right medication depending on the tests and symptoms. Psychotherapy is also a part of the treatment.

It is essential to continue treatment to prevent new episodes and also remain symptom-free. Usually, medication alone is not sufficient; it involves a combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle changes and social support.

Conclusion

About 60 million people around the world suffer from this disease. It is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stay away from drugs and alcohol abuse.

Doing regular exercise and staying fit is also a great way to remain active and fit. Taking good health supplements, eating fresh fruits and vegetables are also beneficial for good health.

Live a less stressful life and take care of mental health along with physical health. Pursuing a good hobby or listening to soothing music using a (music system/headphones) is a good idea to relax.

A properly balanced diet is essential for a healthy body and a sound mind. It is important to learn more about Bipolar disorder and pay close attention to any warning signs.

People taking medications need to continue taking it and also follow the doctor’s advice. Let’s fight this disease together and support people suffering from this challenging mental health condition.

Disclaimer

This article about Bipolar disorder was written, only for informative purposes based on research and relevant available information. Kindly contact a medical expert for any specific updated information, guidelines, treatment and solutions if anyone suffers from symptoms of this disease.

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