This article is about bipolar disorder. It is a mental condition wherein sufferers have episodes of significant changes in mood. Symptoms of bipolar disorder usually start showing up during adolescence and may stay forever. The exact cause of bipolar disorder is still to be discovered, however a lot of different factors affect this condition. The four most common episodes are: depressive, manic, hypomanic, and mixed state. Treatment is more aimed at preventing further episodes to recur. Treatment includes: medications, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy.
Have you ever met someone who was happy one moment and then sad just a few minutes after? Have you ever met anybody whose moods change so fast you can’t keep track? They might be suffering from bipolar disorder.
Also called Manic-depressive illness, this term is used to describe a psychiatric condition of having episodes of significant changes in mood. These changes may vary in a wide spectrum that ranges from severe depression to unrestrained mania. This condition usually manifests its symptoms in adolescence or early adulthood and may persist throughout the sufferer’s life.
According to the United States’ National Institution of Mental Health, there isn’t a single cause of bipolar disorder, but rather a lot of factors acting together to product the illness. Recent studies suggest that genetics, early environment, neurobiology, and psychological and social processes are important contributing factors.
Below are reported signs and symptoms manifested by sufferers during their different moods.
Depressive state. This is a condition characterized by persistent lowering of moods.
· persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt, anger, isolation and/or hopelessness
· disturbances in sleep and appetite,
· fatigue and loss of interest in usually enjoyed activities
· problems concentrating
· apathy or indifference
· loss of interest in sexual activity
· shyness or social anxiety
· chronic pain (with or without a known cause)
· lack of motivation
· morbid/suicidal ideation
Mania. This condition is characterized by extremely elevated mood.
· distinct period of an elevated, expansive or irritable mood state
· increased energy
· decreased need for sleep
· speech pattern is pressured
· thoughts are racing
· low attention span (easily distracted)
· impaired sense of judgement
· aggressive/instrusive behaviour
· has grandiose or delusional ideas
· increased sex drive
Hypomania. This is a lowered state of mania that does not impair regular daily function
· feeling of having an uncontrollable impulse to laugh at things he or she does not normally find funny
· increased in energy
· constructive flight of ideas
Mixed State. In this condition, symptoms of mania and depression occur simultaneously.
· Tearfulness during a manic episode
· Racing thoughts during a depressive episode
Rapid cycling. This condition means that a sufferer has four or more episodes in a year.
There is no known cure for bipolar disorder at this time. Treatment is mainly directed to effective management of acute episodes and prevention of further having such episodes. These are done by means of medication and/or psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy.
Medications are mainly used to stabilize the sufferers ever changing moods. These medications prevent relapses of both manic and depressive episodes. Certain anticonvulsants have been used as a mood stabilizer for people with rapid cycling bipolar disorders. And also, some antipsychotic drugs are used as treatment for agitation in acute manic episodes.
Psychotherapy is often used alongside medications. In this therapy, your doctor will ask you to try to detect patterns leading up to episodes of bipolar disorder. This will help identify the trigger for your episodes. This counselling provides strategies on how to manage stress and how to cope with uncertainties.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is used by doctors mainly on sufferers who have severe depression and have suicidal tendencies. This is also used on people who don’t react to the medication.
No treatment will work without the patient’s full cooperation. Of course the sufferer would need to religiously take his medication to ensure continued mood stability. Also, avoid alcohol and illicit drugs. And before taking new medications, consult the doctor for safe administration.
Coping with bipolar disorder is not easy. However with the full support from friends and loved ones, things will get better.