What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a chronic mood disorder and mental health condition which causes serious shifts in mood, thinking patterns, energy levels, and behaviour. These shifts can affect your daily life and can last for hours, days, weeks, or even months. Bipolar disorder was earlier known as manic depression and it can lead to extreme mood swings from emotional highs (hypomania or mania) to lows (depression). During the period of highs, you will feel euphoric, full of energy, or abnormally irritable and during the period of lows you will feel sad, depressed, or hopeless and these mood swings affect your ability to judge, sleep, work, and energy. These episodes of mood swings may occur rarely or many times a year. Though bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, mood swings can be controlled with a proper treatment plan and you can lead a normal, and fruitful life.
What are the Types of Bipolar Disorder?
There are four types of bipolar disorder:
Bipolar I disorder: Bipolar I disorder causes one or more episodes of mania. A big percentage of people with bipolar I will have episodes of both high (mania)s and lows (depression), and it’s not necessary that the episodes of lows are diagnosed. The episodes of low (depression) normally last for at least two weeks. To get diagnosed with bipolar I, your manic episodes need to last for at least seven days or it’s so serious that you have to be hospitalised. People with bipolar I might also experience episodes of both manic and depressive symptoms (mixed states).
Bipolar II disorder: Bipolar II disorder causes episodes of both lows (depressive episodes) and highs (hypomanic episodes)s but here lows will dominate the highs. People with bipolar II disorder may experience one or more episodes of depression, at least one hypomanic episode, and there is no diagnosis available to explain the mood swings.
Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia): Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia) chronically unstable mood state. People with cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia) experience hypomania and depression for at least two years. People with cyclothymia might have small periods of normal mood (euthymia), but these periods last for less than eight weeks.
Other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorders: Here you may not meet the diagnostic criteria for bipolar I, II, or cyclothymia but might still experience periods of clinically significant unusual mood elevation. This condition is considered as other specified and unspecified bipolar disorder.
What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
The main sign of bipolar disorder I is a manic episode for at least one week and on the other hand people with bipolar disorder II or cyclothymia experience episodes of hypomanic.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder can be classified according to the episodes such as:
Symptoms of manic episodes include:
Being extremely happy, hopeful, and excited: Sudden and severe mood swings where a person can have a sudden change of mood from being extremely happy to being quite angry and hostile.
- Fast speech and racing thoughts.
- Augmented energy and less requirement for sleep.
- Rise in impulsivity and poor judgement, like quitting a job suddenly.
- Making plans which are big and unattainable in most instances.
- Impulsive and risk-taking behaviour including drug and alcohol abuse and having unprotected sex.
- The feeling of being unusually important, powerful, or talented.
- May experience hallucinations and delusions in severe cases.
Symptoms of depressive episodes include:
- Constant feelings of sadness, emptiness, and helplessness.
- Feeling tired most of the time and low energy
- Lack of motivation.
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
- Stop enjoying things once enjoyed
- Problems in concentrating and decision-making.
- Crying uncontrollably.
- Feeling irritated most of the time.
- Insomnia or unusual sleep.
- Unexpected weight loss or gain because of a change in appetite.
- Suicidal thoughts
The symptoms of mixed episodes might include the signs and symptoms of both manic and depressive episodes where you might have negative feelings which are depressive along with feeling agitated, restless, and high energy.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
Researchers are not able to find the exact causes of bipolar disorder, but a few factors may fuel bipolar disorder including:
Biological differences: It has been found that there might be physical changes in the brain of people with bipolar disorder. How these changes can cause bipolar disorder is still uncertain but might eventually help to find causes.
Genetics: If you have a family history of bipolar disorder then your chances of developing bipolar disorder also increases. Scientists are trying to find genes that might be involved in causing bipolar disorder.
What are the Risk Factors of Bipolar Disorder?
The risk factors of bipolar disorder include:
Family History: If you have a first-degree relative like a parent or a sibling with bipolar disorder then the risk of you developing bipolar disorder increases
Trauma and stress: A stressful and traumatic event like the death of a loved one, divorce, or losing a job can lead to a depressive episode.
Drug or Alcohol abuse: Drug and alcohol abuse can trigger bipolar disorder.
What are the Complications of Bipolar Disorder
- There is a high chance that people with bipolar disorder might get involved in drug or alcohol abuse.
- People with bipolar disorder may attempt suicide during a depressive episode
- Legal and financial problems
- Problems in relationships
- Affecting performances in school/college or job
- Anxiety-related disorders
- People with bipolar disorder might have eating disorders or might suffer from insomnia also
- Health problems, like heart disease, thyroid problems, headaches, or obesity may arise
How Bipolar Disorder is Diagnosed?
You have to go through at least one episode of mania or hypomania to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
The methods and tests to diagnose bipolar disorder include:
Physical exam: Your doctor may carry out a physical exam and lab tests to check if any medical conditions that might be causing your symptoms. Your doctor might also check if you have a family history of bipolar disorder
Psychiatric assessment: You might have a session with a psychiatrist, who will discuss about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviour patterns. You may be given a psychological self-assessment or questionnaire which you have to fill out. Your family members or close friends may be asked questions regarding your symptoms.
A daily record of your moods, sleep patterns, or other factors might be kept as it may help with diagnosis and finding the proper treatment for you.
Medical tests: It may include a blood test to rule out other conditions that might be causing your symptoms, like hyperthyroidism.
What are the Treatment Options Available for Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured but treatments are available to manage the symptoms including:
Medication: Medicines are given to balance your moods. Some common medicines given to people with bipolar disorder include mood stabilisers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications. People with bipolar disorder need lifelong treatment with medicines even if there are no symptoms because if medication is not continued then there is a high risk of a relapse of symptoms or minor mood changes that might turn into severe mania or depression.
Talk therapy: People with bipolar disorder are given counselling by a psychiatrist who will talk about what they are feeling, how to cope with them, how to control emotions, etc. It helps to ease the symptoms.
Substance abuse treatment: If you are into alcohol or drug abuse, then you will be given substance abuse treatment. If treatment is not given for substance abuse then it can be very difficult to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Hospitalisation: If you’reis dangerous, or you are feeling suicidal or gettomg detached from reality, then you may be hospitalised where you will be given psychiatric treatment. It will help to keep you calm and safe while stabilising your mood,
Living with Bipolar Disorder
If you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you will have to get treatment throughout your life to manage the symptoms. If you have bipolar disorder then you might feel extreme emotions that can adversely affect various aspects of your life such as relationships, or your performance at work. Sometimes you may feel suicidal during depressive episodes. You have to manage your symptoms through medication and counselling. Share your feelings with close friends and relatives as it will make you feel better. Many people with bipolar disorder get involved in drug or alcohol abuse, so you need to take proper treatment regularly even if you are not showing any symptoms for a long period. Regular and continued use of medication is helpful to decrease and avert episodes of mania and depression. With proper treatment and a good support system, you can live a normal life.
Whom to Consult?
If you experience symptoms of depression or mania, you shall contact a doctor and get yourself checked. It’s very important to seek medical help because bipolar disorder does not go away on its own. If you have bipolar disorder then you may feel quite happy and hopeful about life but it is always followed by episodes of depression which may make you feel that your world is falling. Such situations may cause financial and other problems. It’s a lifelong condition and you need to take lifelong treatment to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder.