Overview and Facts
Everyone has ups and downs. We can go from good moods to bad moods in the blink of an eye, but when someone is experiencing extreme and severe mood swings, it is possible they are suffering from Bipolar Disorder.
Bipolar Disorder, also commonly known as manic-depressive disorder, is a type of depressive disorder that is a serious mental illness. An individual who is manic-depressive will shift between periods of mania and depression. Mania refers to a time where the individual is energetic, talkative, euphoric and powerful. The depressive state is the exact opposite, meaning the person may experience loss of energy, trouble sleeping, sadness and feelings of worthlessness.
Signs and Symptoms
The main symptom of bipolar disorder is experiencing intense changes of mood. This mental illness causes contrasting symptoms, as the person suffering from bipolar disorder goes from very high moods to a depressive state. A person can also experience a mixed state, which includes both feelings of mania and depression.
Symptoms when the person is experiencing mania:
- Overly joyous or excited
- Long period of feeling ‘high’ or overly happy
- Feeling jumpy or wired
- Behaving impulsively
- Talking very fast
- Increasing goal-oriented activities
- Having unrealistic belief in abilities
Symptoms when the person is experiencing a depressive episode:
- Extreme sadness or hopelessness
- Long period of feeling worried or empty
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Feeling tired
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Having unrealistic belief in abilities
Along with these manic depressive symptoms can also come extreme changes in energy, behavior, sleep and other activities.
Causes and Diagnosis
Like other depressive disorders, there is no single cause of bipolar disorder. Many factors likely work together to cause this mental illness.
Genetics – Studies show that bipolar disorder does run in families. Children who have a sibling or parent with bipolar disorder are four to six times more likely to develop the disease. Researchers are working to identify the genes involved in bipolar disorder that can help with diagnosis.
Brain structure – Brain-imaging tools have shown that the brains of people with bipolar disorder may differ from those of healthy people. Scientists are working to identify the different brain pattern in the hope that bipolar disorder can be easier to prevent and diagnose.
Environmental factors – Stress caused by traumatic events could trigger symptoms of bipolar disorder. Changes experienced in puberty could also play a role.
There is no bipolar disorder test. It can’t be identified through lab tests such as blood tests and brain scans, but these types of tests can rule out other contributing factors. Diagnosis of bipolar disorder mainly involves talking to a doctor who will evaluate your medical history by:
- Observing your behavior and mood
- Asking about medical history; whether someone has had bipolar disorder
- Questioning you about your recent mood swings
- Talking to family and friends to discuss their observations of your behavior
- Performing a physical exam to rule out other illnesses and factors
Depending on your doctor’s findings, you may be referred to a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist will conduct a complete diagnostic evaluation to determine if you are suffering from bipolar disorder.
Tests and Treatment Options
Though there is no cure for bipolar disorder, there is treatment for bipolar disorder that can help someone lessen and control bipolar disorder symptoms.
Long-term treatment is necessary to treat bipolar disorder symptoms – a plan that includes psychotherapy and medication is usually most effective in reducing the severity of symptoms.
Medications commonly used are:
- Mood stabilizers – usually the first choice to treat bipolar disorder
- Atypical antipsychotic drugs – these drugs are often taken in conjunction with other medications
- Antidepressants – used to treat the depressive side of manic-depressive disease
Psychotherapy treats bipolar disorder by providing support, education and guidance. Treatments include:
- Family-focused therapy – This type of therapy includes family members to increase the support system of the person suffering from bipolar disorder.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – This type of therapy helps people with bipolar disorders learn to change their destructive thought patterns and behaviors.
- Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy – This helps people suffering from bipolar disorder to improve their relationships with others and control their daily routines, which can help avoid bipolar episodes.
Helpful Tips and Home Remedies
If you suffer from bipolar disorder, there are things you can do to help yourself over time, including:
- Get plenty of rest
- Keep as much of a routine for your daily activities as possible
- Stay on your doctor prescribed medication
- Educate yourself on warning signs of an impending episode
If you think you need help, there are places you can go and people you can speak to who can help you:
- Mental health specialists
- State hospital clinics
- Community mental health centers
- University mental health programs
- Private mental health clinics
- Family services agencies