Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterised by extreme changes in mood, energy and activity levels which causes severe disruption in a person’s life. Alternating episodes of extremely high or elevated mood called mania or hypomania and low mood called depression occurs in bipolar disorders. Bipolar disorder is also known as bipolar disease or manic depression. These extreme mood shifts can impact a person’s behaviour, work, relationships and other aspects of life.
Three main types of bipolar disorders are:
- Bipolar I Disorder
- Appearance of at least one manic episode
- Manic episodes last at least seven days and are severe enough to require immediate hospitalisation to prevent harm to oneself and others
- Depressive episodes also occur, that may last for two weeks and may be experienced before and after the manic episodes
- It affects both men and women equally
- Bipolar II Disorder
- Recurring episodes of major depression or hypomania and may last up to two weeks
- No manic episodes
- It is more common in women
- Symptoms are less severe and shorter in cyclothymia when compared to other two classification.
- Occurrence of hypomanic and depressive episodes
Exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. It may occur due to a combination of genetic factors, environmental factors and changes in brain functioning.
Symptoms of bipolar disorders widely vary in pattern, severity and frequency. It is different for different people. There can be manic or hypomanic episodes or depressive episodes or mixed episodes. Symptoms include:
- Mania or hypomania
- Feeling unusually high
- Feeling extremely energetic
- Reduced need for sleep
- Too rapid or unusual talking
- Euphoria (state of intense happiness and confidence)
- Inability to concentrate or distraction
- Racing thoughts
- Poor decision making
- Recklessness and impulsiveness
- Delusions and hallucinations
- Feeling sad, worried, hopeless, tearful or empty
- Feeling weak or fatigue
- Sleep problems
- Inability to experience pleasure
- Loss of interest
- Reduced appetite and unexplained weight loss
- Suicidal and negative thoughts
- Feeling worthless and guilty
- Inability to make decisions
- Concentration and memory problems
Diagnosis of bipolar disorder includes:
- Review of signs and symptoms
- Physical examination
- Psychological and/or psychiatric assessment
- DSM 5 Criteria (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders)
There is no exact or sure way to prevent bipolar disorder. Tips to prevent worsening of the condition and controlling symptoms include:
- Seek help at the earliest warning sign of a mental health disorder
- Continue treatment and follow treatment plans strictly
- Avoid drugs, alcohols, smoking and caffeines
- Maintain a healthy and balanced diet
- Talk to people, engage in social activities, exercise regularly and stay active.
The major goals of treatment in bipolar disorder are to stabilise a person’s mood, reduce severity and to help the person function effectively in daily life. A combination of treatment measures and therapies are included.
- Medication: drugs such as mood stabilisers, antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety medications are used.
- Psychotherapy: a treatment method in which you learn about your thoughts, emotions, feelings, moods or behaviours and helps you to eliminate or control your troubling symptoms. Different types of psychotherapy techniques are used in the treatment of bipolar disorders.
Bipolar disorder may require a lifelong and continued treatment to control your symptoms and prevent recurring or relapsing episodes.
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