Bipolar disorder is a dire mental health condition comprising extreme shifts in mood. This blog will help you get an overview of bipolar disorder, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.
What Are Bipolar Disorders?
The National Institute of Mental Health describes the significant bipolar disorder symptoms as alternating episodes of mood swings from extreme low to high. Changes in sleep pattern, energy levels, ability to concentrate, and other such features can dramatically impact an individual’s behavior, work, relationships, social status, and other aspects of life.
It is common to experience mood changes sometimes, but people who have bipolar disorder experience more intense than regular alterations in mood, and other symptoms can occur. Some people have psychosis, including paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations. Between bipolar disorder episodes, the individual’s mood may stay stable for months or years, especially if you are following a healthy treatment plan.
The treatment makes it possible for several people with this medical condition to work, study, and live productive life. However, several reported cases say that people who stopped taking the treatment have reoccurrence of symptoms.
Some aspects of bipolar disorder can even make an individual feel good. People find out that they are more friendly, talkative, and creative during an elevated mood. However, an elevated mood does not commonly persist. Even if it does, it may be hard to stay attentive or follow through with plans. It can make it challenging to follow a project through to the end.
The primary symptom of bipolar disorder is at least one episode of mania or hypomania. These involve feelings of excitement, high energy, and impulsivity, but hypomania is less severe than mania. Since the symptoms of mania can affect your day-to-day life, resulting in problems at work or home, it is much more potent than hypomania.
Some people also experience major depressive episodes that make them feel down. The main feature of bipolar disorder can be summarised in these three primary symptoms: mania, hypomania, and depression. Your symptoms widely depend upon the type of bipolar disorder you have. So, here we have categorized the signs based on bipolar types.
Bipolar disorder type I symptoms
- at least one manic episode (attack) lasting for at least a week
- symptoms that affect the regular function
- occurrence of signs that do not relate to another medical or mental condition or substance use
You may also experience psychosis symptoms or depression and mania (mixed features). It can have more impact on your life, and if you have them, it is worth reaching out for medical support as soon as possible. While it is not compulsory to experience hypomania or depression episodes to receive a bipolar I diagnosis, usually, people with bipolar I report these symptoms.
Bipolar disorder type II symptoms
- at least one hypomania episode lasting for four days or longer and involves some symptoms of hypomania (more on this later)
- hypomania-related mood swings and alterations in usual functions that others can notice, though these are less likely to affect your daily life
- at least one major depressive episode lasting for two weeks or more
- at least one major depressive episode, involving five or more signs of depression that have a significant effect on your day-to-day life
- occurrence of symptoms that do not relate to any medical or mental health condition or substance use
This neurological condition also involves psychosis symptoms, but only during a depressive episode. You could also have mixed mood episodes, which means you will experience signs of depression and hypomania at the same time. In this type, you would not experience mania. So, if you have a manic episode, your healthcare professional may diagnose you with bipolar I disorder.
- periods of hypomania and depression symptoms, off and on, over two years or more (one year in children and adolescents)
- occurrence of signs that you fail to recognize belongs to whether hypomania or depression
- suffering from these symptoms for at least half of the two years that are never absent for more than 60 days at a time
- occurrence of signs that do not relate to any other medical or mental health problem or substance use
Fluctuation in mood characterizes cyclothymia. These symptoms can be less severe than bipolar I or II. But they still tend to last longer, so it does not leave you without any symptoms for an extended period.
Mania or hypomania symptoms
- impaired judgment, a sense of distraction or boredom
- wired feeling, sleeping little but not feeling tired
- not attending work or school and underperforming
- engaging in risky behavior, feeling able to do anything
- being friendly and forthcoming, feeling exhilarated or euphoric
- increased libido, having high levels of self-esteem, confidence, and self-importance
- talking a lot rapidly, jumping from one topic to another in any conversation
- not realizing that anything is wrong or simply denying it
- having racing thoughts, off and on, and bizarre ideas about the other person may act upon
Bipolar disorder does not usually happen because of only one factor, and it appears as a result of several combinations. The major factors responsible for this neurological condition include:
Genetic factors: This neurological disorder is more common in people who have a family member or close relative with this condition. Other genetic features may involve preexisting depression or schizophrenia.
Biological traits: Imbalance in the hormones or neurotransmitters in the brain may play a significant role.
Environmental factors: Specific live events such as abuse, anxiety, mental stress, or a significant loss due to any traumatic event may trigger an initial episode of mania or hypomania in a susceptible person.
If you have symptoms of bipolar disorder, do not hesitate to talk about it without your family doctor or psychiatrist. The healthcare professional is likely to ask questions about mental illnesses you have had and about your family’s medical history concerning mental illnesses. You will also get a complete psychiatric evaluation that will help you know if you have bipolar disorder or any other psychological health condition.
Bipolar disorder diagnosis is all about the person’s symptoms and determining whether they are due to another cause (low thyroid or fluctuating mood because of drug or alcohol abuse). While diagnosing bipolar disorder, the health expert will check:
- How severe the symptoms are?;
- How long have they lasted?; and
- How often do they occur?
The easiest way is to diagnose is checking if the symptoms involve highs or lows in mood, along with drastic changes in sleep, thinking, energy, and behavior. It is good to get an accurate diagnosis on time as it helps you get suitable treatment. In most cases, people with bipolar disorder do not get accurately diagnosed for about ten years.
Bipolar disorder treatment aims to stabilize the individual’s mood and reduce the symptoms. The goal of any treatment is to help the person function well in daily life. It involves a combination of therapies, including counseling, medication, physical intervention, and lifestyle remedies.
Drug treatment can stabilize mood and manage severe symptoms. Your medical healthcare professional may prescribe you antidepressants, mood stabilizers (such as lithium), anticonvulsants, second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs), drugs to help with sleep or anxiety.
Not every medication is suitable for all. So, your doctor may adjust your doses or medicines over time. Some drugs have adverse effects, and they are likely to affect individuals differently. If an individual is concerned about their drug therapy, they should consult their medical healthcare professional.
Psychotherapy and counseling
Psychotherapy is an effective way of relieving symptoms and equipping an individual for bipolar disorder management. Through cognitive behavior therapy and other well-researched approaches, the individual can learn how to:
- identify early symptoms of an episode and take required steps to manage it
- recognize and manage key triggers, such as stress
- work on factors that can help you keep a stable mood as long as possible
- do not hesitate and take help from your family members, teachers, and colleagues
These steps can help you maintain positive relationships at home and work. Doctors usually recommend family therapy for children and teens with bipolar disorder. It allows them to communicate and get better in the company of loved ones.