What is Bipolar Disorder? Symptoms, causes and treatment

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Also known as maniac depression, bipolar disorder is a mental condition which causes extreme mood swings that affects sleep, activity, energy levels, behavior, judgement or thinking ability etc.

Mood swings include mania or hypomania (emotional highs) and depression (emotional lows).

  • When your mood shifts to depression, you start feeling sad, lonely, hopeless and do not feel like doing anything, you just lose all interest.
  • When your mood shifts to mania or hypomania you feel energetic (full of energy), excited or may feel unusually irritated.

What is Bipolar Disorder? Also known as maniac depression, bipolar disorder is a mental condition which causes extreme mood swings that affects sleep, activity, energy levels, behavior, judgement or thinking ability etc. Mood swings include mania or hypomania (emotional highs) and depression (emotional lows).

Bipolar disorder is often confused with borderline personality as they both have common symptoms like mood swings and impulsiveness. But in reality they are entirely different from each other and have different treatment methods.

Though bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition but it can be controlled by following a proper treatment plan.

Types of Bipolar Disorder:

1. Bipolar I Disorder:

It is characterized by at least one manic episode followed or preceded by either hypomanic or depressive episodes. It is characterized by extreme manic episodes which may cause psychosis (which is a break from reality).

2. Bipolar II Disorder:

Bipolar II is characterized by one or more major depressive episodes and at least one hypomanic episode. People suffering from it can stay depressed for longer periods of time which may cause significant impairment. Hypomanic episodes in bipolar II are not as high as Bipolar I manic episodes.

3. Cyclothymic disorder

It is characterized by several hypomanic episodes and less severe episodes of depression for at least two years in adults or one year in children and teenagers.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder:

Bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings alternating between mania and depression which can continue from days to months.

Symptoms during mania and hypomanic periods:

Mania and hypomania are two different episodes. Hypomania is less severe than mania but they both have same symptoms:

  • Excessive happiness or anger
  • Unusually irritated
  • Sleeplessness, but not feeling tired
  • Impulsiveness
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Feeling energetic
  • Low concentration (distractibility)

Symptoms during Depression periods:

  • Low in energy (lethargic)
  • Sad, lonely, hopeless, depressed
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Decreases concentration levels
  • Thoughts related to committing or planning suicide
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased appetite, marked by significant weight loss or weight gain

Causes of Bipolar Disorder:

Bipolar disorder can be triggered by a number of factors but it’s exact cause is not known as of now. Some possible factors which may trigger bipolar disorder are:

1. Biological differences

Individuals suffering from this disorder are found to have physical changes in their brains. The cause and significance of such changes in the brain are not known as of now but in future it may help in pinpointing the actual causes.

2. Genetics

Individuals who have a first degree relative (for example parent or sibling) who is suffering from the condition are more prone to suffer from bipolar disorder. Research is being carried out to find the genes which cause bipolar disorder in individuals.

3. Drug or Alcohol abuse

Drug or alcohol abuse may also cause bipolar disorder in some individuals.

4. High stress

If you have a lifestyle which is characterized by stress, tension or any other trauma then you are at a risk of developing bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment:

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition. It can be managed by undertaking proper treatment which includes medications and psyhotherapy (psychological counseling).

Medications includes mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.

Lithium Treatment for Bipolar Disorder:

Lithium is most widely used medication in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Lithium is said to act on a person’s brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) and regulate areas of brain which are responsible for mood, behavior and thinking ability.

Lithium helps in reducing the severity and frequency of mania and also helps in preventing manic and depressive episodes in the future.

Some studies also relate lithium with significant reduction in suicide risk.

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