What is Bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes changes in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities.
More than 5.7 million American adults or 2.6 percent of the population age 18 or older in any given year have this disorder. The condition typically starts in late adolescence or early adulthood. People who often live with the disorder without having it properly can diagnose and treated.
A person with severe signs may also have psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions and may even have thoughts of self-harm or suicide. It can inhibit the person’s ability to function normally in daily life. Resulting in damaged relationships, both professional and personal.
The exact cause of this type of disorder is still unknown. It is observed that it usually starts during teenage or adolescence. Due to a lack of knowledge about the disorder, most people with this disorder suffer for a long time before seeking help.
Possible risk factors could be hormonal imbalance, genetics, extreme trauma due to tragic incidents, drugs, or substance abuse. Bipolar disorder can co-exist with other illnesses such as acute depression with psychosis or schizophrenia.
It causes repeated mood swings, or episodes, that can make someone feel very high (mania) or very low (depressive). The cyclic episodes are punctuated by normal moods.
- Increased energy, activity, restlessness
- Euphoric mood
- Extreme irritability
- Poor concentration
- Racing thoughts, fast-talking, jumping between ideas
- Heightened sense of self-importance
- Spending sprees
- Increased sexual behavior
- Abuse of drugs, such as cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
- Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
- Denial that anything is wrong
- Sad, anxious, or empty-feeling mood
- Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Restlessness and irritability
- Sleeplessness or sleeping too much
- Change in appetite, unintended weight loss, or gain
- Bodily symptoms not caused by physical illness or injury
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Types of bipolar disorder:
There are four basic types:
- Bipolar I Disorder: Manic or mixed episodes that persist for at least seven days, or severe manic symptoms that require the person to be hospitalized immediately. Also, depressive episodes occur that may persist for at least two weeks.
- Bipolar II Disorder: A combination of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but no predominant manic or mixed episodes.
- Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS): Diagnosed when symptoms of the illness exist but do not meet diagnostic criteria for either bipolar I or II. However, the symptoms are clearly out of the person’s normal range of behavior.
- Cyclothymic Disorder or Cyclothymia: A mild form of bipolar disorder where episodes of hypomania and mild depression may persist for at least two years.
The mental health expert conducts several tests and assessments to diagnose the condition correctly and to rule out other underlying problems which could be causing these symptoms. To assess the severity of the symptoms, the expert may ask the person to maintain a daily record of their mood changes, sleep patterns, and details of daily activities that could help in prescribing the appropriate treatment.
A psychologist evaluates the person’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The expert may also speak to the family members to collect more information about the person’s condition. A psychological self-assessment may also be conducted to analyze the severity of the disorder.
While no cure exists for bipolar disorder, it is treatable and manageable with psychotherapy and medications. Mood stabilizing medications are usually the first choice in medication. In addition to medication, psychotherapy provides support, guidance, and education to people with bipolar disorder and their families.
Psychotherapeutic interventions increase mood stability, decrease hospitalizations and improve overall functioning. Common techniques include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, and family therapy.
The main purpose of the treatment is to:
- Reduce the frequency and severity of the disorder
- Enable the person to manage daily activities and enjoy his/her life at home and at work
- Prevent self-harm and suicide
Caring for someone with bipolar disorder:
If you know someone with bipolar disorder, encourage them to consult a mental health expert and get treatment.
- Try to remain calm and relaxed when communicating with them
- Encourage the person to follow an activity plan and regularize their daily tasks, which will help them control the symptoms.
- A mixed episode in bipolar disorder can be frustrating and risky. Try to observe and assess what stressors could cause a risky behavior and help the person avoid such things.
- After a bipolar episode, the person may feel a deep sense of shame and guilt about their inappropriate or risky illness-related behavior. Try to calm them down and explain to them that such behavior is due to the condition and not a voluntary action.
- Reassure the person that with regular treatment, they can get better and live a normal life.
- Be watchful about comments or actions that indicate self-harm or suicide, and immediately report it to the doctor.