What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder is characterized by periods shifting of moods between extreme euphoria (elevated mood) and severe depression. Also known as bipolar affective disorder or manic-depressive disorder, it is more than just mood swings and the periods of either extremes can last for months or even years. The frequency of attack can be few times per year or several times even per day. Bipolar disorder is a chronic disorder affecting the social and personal life of a person to a great extent although counseling and medication can restore the quality of life to some extent. Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally, however, certain subtypes of bipolar disorder are more common in women. It is important to understand that bipolar disorder is a specific mental health condition and should not be confused with other hormonal problems like premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
The presentation of bipolar disorder can be vary in different patients. Some patients suffer from mania whereas some suffer from depression at specific times, although in most of the cases depression is predominant. Symptoms also vary in the same patient according to the phase of the disease. The symptoms can be broadly discussed under the manic and depressive phases.
- Insomnia (very little or no sleep at night)
- Increased appetite, increased craving for drugs, alcohol
- Increased sexual drive (may involve multiple partners)
- Aggressive behavior
- Poor attention span
- Poor judgment
- Risky and extreme behavior including compulsive tendencies such as gambling, excessive spending, and so on.
- Inflated ego
- Delusional ideas (they have been “chosen” or “on mission”)
- Increased energy
- Poor performance
- Almost non-stop talking
- Interference with day-to-day activities
- Increased sense of guilt, shame, anxiety, irritability, fatigue
- Loss of interest in surroundings and previously enjoyed activities
- Decreased sleep
- Diminished appetite
- Problem concentrating
- Self loathing or hatred
- Suicidal thoughts
- Interference with day-to-day activities
In a hypomanic phase, there is mild to moderate elevation of mood. Other features of mania are present to some extent but there is no interference with day-to day activities. In mixed affective phase, the symptoms of mania and depression occur together. Most cases of suicide attempts, drug abuse (extreme features of both manic and depressive phases) occur in this phase.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
There are three different subtypes of bipolar disorder :
- Bipolar I disorder: severe shifting of mood interfering with daily activities
- Bipolar II disorder: less severe than bipolar I disorder.
- Cyclothymic disorder: milder form of Bipolar disorder
About Bipolar Disorder Video
Causes and Risks
There are various causes and risk factors associated with the development of bipolar disorders. The three most important contributing factors includes :
- Genetics: Some genes have been attributed to development of bipolar disorder although it has not been definitively proven.
- Environmental: Stress in personal life, interpersonal relationships, trauma in childhood may lead to bipolar disorder in later life.
- Pathological: Defective brain structure or functioning with increased neuronal activity during mania and decreased neuronal activity during depression may lead to bipolar disorder.
People who appear to be at risk of bipolar disorders include those with :
- Family history (parents, siblings)
- Experiencing severe psychological stress
- History of drug abuse
Young adults seem to be at a greater risk of developing the condition than the elderly.
Bipolar Disorder Treatment
The treatment of bipolar disorder focuses on medication and psychotherapy (counseling). Other forms of treatment include magnetic and electrical stimulation of the brain, however, these therapies are not routinely conducted in the treatment and management of bipolar disorder.
- Lithium (mood stabilizer)
- Anticonvulsants (valproic acid, lamotrigine)
- Antipsychotics (quetiapine, olanzapine, risperidone)
- Antidepressants (amitryptyline)
- Anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines – clonazepam,diazepam)
Psychotherapy includes behavioral therapy as well as family and group therapy. Patients need to understand that psychotherapy is an essential component in the management of bipolar disorder along with medication.