What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disorder that falls under the category of mood disorders and causes major mood fluctuations in the patients. Either the person harboring this mental illness is exaggeratedly joyous and happy, or he/she is miserably sad, depressed and hopeless. There is no middle ground; only extremes; two opposing poles as in bipolar.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
A person affected by this mental illness will internally face and externally demonstrate two opposing emotional/mental vortexes, and changing behavior and demeanor. Bipolar disorder symptoms can be divided into two; high phase symptoms and low phase symptoms. The high phase consists of two states: Hypomania and Mania1.
High Episodic Symptoms
The patient suffers through states of mania and hypomania where he/she display the following symptoms:
- May engage in risky and daring activities.
- Will participate in drinking, using drugs and gambling.
- The person will feel agitated, restless, and will constantly appear distracted because they’ll have difficulty concentrating.
- They might skip classes, work or school, and can undermine their academic and job performance.
- They’ll become too straightforward, bold, persistent or even aggressive as if they’re coming on too strong, but they won’t realize it.
- They’ll complain of an unexplainable or weird sensation all the time.
- They’ll possess an unrealistic belief that everything they say and do is right and that they can conquer anything even though it is rationally not possible.
- Another indication is that bipolar patients harness an inflated self-esteem, an untarnished belief of their abilities and intelligence that they can move mountains.
- Their judgment will become severely lagged.
- Talking excessively and rapidly, pressurized speech that may switch from one topic to another.
- Racing thoughts that rush through the mind, and bizarre ideas that the person may exhibit.
- Promiscuous behavior.
Low Episodic Symptoms
While the former opposing half was euphoric in nature; the low episodic symptoms also known as the depressive episodes2 are equally miserable as compared to its contradicting pole.
- Loss of excitement or interest from those activities that once brought pleasure and joy.
- Insomnia or the absence of sleep.
- Changes in eating pattern; either one completely loses their desire for food or one abnormally overeats.
- The person is always gloomy, sad or down.
- They experience over-worrying about the smallest of things and start stressing over them.
- Their memory weakens, they can’t recall or remember things, and their attention span shortens.
- The patient in this state takes the blame of failure or things going wrong on themselves and end up feeling negative and guilty.
- They might face physical pain or ailments that are untreatable by medication.
- They’ll lose the confidence, self-esteem or even the interest to do activities like going to school or office which subsequently will lead them to under-perform.
- They’ll feel irritated, possibly triggered by noises, smells, tight clothing, and other things that would usually be tolerated or ignored.
- Suicide can also occur as a last resort.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar I Disorder (mania and depression) – This is the most common and prevalent type of Bipolar disorder, and it’s the most major one. Patients diagnosed with this type of bipolar disorder experience episodes of mania.
Bipolar II Disorder (hypomania and depression) – This version of the bipolar disorder is a softer version of the bipolar disorder I, and it does not consist of mania but comprises of hypomanic episodes. If you have a manic episode, then your diagnosis will be switched to bipolar I disorder.
Cyclothymia (hypomania and mild depression) – This type is a precursor to the real thing but doesn’t pose much of a threat itself; cyclothymia is a more restrained and milder form of the bipolar disorder and consists of cyclic shifts in mood throughout the years. If left unchecked, it can transform into the complete bipolar disorder.
What are the Underlying Causes of Bipolar Disorder?
Genetics is indeed a powerful factor and offers a great contribution to this disorder. If there has been a history of bipolar disorder or other similar mental illness in the family, then the chances are that this illness can occur in future generations.
Twin studies have demonstrated the validity of genetics; if one twin harnesses the gene, then there is a 70-80% chance that the other can have the disorder as well.
- Environmental Influence
The surrounding environment can have a huge impact on a person’s mental, emotional and psychological development; a harsh, negligent, or traumatic childhood can trigger manic or depressive episodes. Maybe the environment can itself encourage the gene to active or drug, or alcohol abuse can alter your brain chemistry as well.
- Variation in Brain Structure
The brain’s neurochemistry is another constituent factor in this psychiatric disorder. Research has indicated that there is a connection with neurotransmitters in the brain and abnormal mood swings.
Patients with bipolar disorder also have physical differences in some regions of the brains as compared to those who do not have this illness.
Bipolar Disorder Treatment
Bipolar disorder treatment involves the following:
Drugs and medication are prescribed depending on the patient’s need; drugs such as anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics are actually very helpful in balancing neurotransmitters in the brain and producing a calming effect. Although medications have their benefits, they’re not the ultimate cure. It is better to seek professional support like therapy or counseling in the long-run.
- Psychotherapy and CBT
Psychotherapy offers a free association technique that allows the patient to pour their heart out with unconditional acceptance and zero judgments. It is a good cathartic opportunity for the patient. Cognitive behavior therapy or CBT can help fight off those negative and nasty thoughts that cripple the patient. The patient can also come up with effective coping mechanisms and various problem-solving strategies with his/her therapist.
- MedicineNet - Mania vs. Hypomania
- MedicalNewsToday - How to copy with a depressive episode