Bipolar Disorder —Causes, Symptoms, Types and Treatment

Bipolar disorder, formerly referred to as manic depression or manic depressive illness is a kind of mental health condition that causes unusual change in a person’s mood, energy, go to work, concentrate in school or maintain relationships and ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

A person with bipolar disorder may experience intense mood swings that involves emotional highs (very active, euphoric ‘manic’) and lows (depression).

During the highs (manic episodes), they might feel like things are speeding up, having a thousands of thoughts and ideas, getting overly excited, feeling invincible, and they may even behave recklessly. 

During the lows (depression or depressive episodes), they may feel extremely sad, hopeless, worthless and tired. They may avoid friends and family by isolating themselves. They may also avoid participating in their usual activities. 

These emotional states (mood episodes) generally occur during distinct periods of days to weeks. People with bipolar disorder have periods of neutral mood as well. 

A severe manic or depressive episodes may trigger psychotic symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations. 

Causes 

Bipolar is often difficult to recognize and diagnose as it causes a person to have high level of energy, unrealistically expansive thoughts and ideas, and impulsive or reckless behavior. Some of these symptoms may feel good to a person which can lead to denial that there is a problem. 

It’s also linked with co-occurring conditions and problems like anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eating disorders, substance abuse, poor performance at work or in school. 

Research shows that bipolar disorder tends to run in families. It could also be triggered by environmental factors such as stressful life events – death of a loved one or other traumatic event. Brain developments, structure and chemicals (neurotransmitters) which act as messengers between nerve cells are also thought to play a role in the development of bipolar disorder. 

Symptoms 

Bipolar disorder symptoms may vary from person to person, but the most common signs and symptoms include:

For a manic episode:

  • Intense feelings of euphoria, excitement or happiness 
  • Appearing abnormally jumpy or weird
  • Having excessive energy 
  • Insomnia or restlessness 
  • Speaking fast or being unusually talkative 
  • Having racing or jumbled thoughts 
  • Impulsivity 
  • Increased agitation or irritability 
  • Inflated self-esteem 

For a depressive episode:

  • Feeling intense sadness, anxiousness, guilt, emptiness, worthlessness or hopelessness 
  • Lack of interest in things one usually enjoys 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Indecisiveness 
  • Either sleeps too much or too little 
  • Either eats too much or too little 
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Suicidal 

Types of Bipolar Disorder 

All types of bipolar disorder includes periods between highs (manic episodes) and lows (depressive episodes). The major difference is how intense the mood states are and how long they last.

They include three different diagnoses:

  • Bipolar I Disorder: people with this type of bipolar disorder experience an extreme increase in energy and may feel on top of the world or uncomfortably irritable in mood. They may also experience depressive episodes or periods of neutral mood.
  • Bipolar II Disorder: here people function between episodes. Mood states vary from an even to high to low, but the highs are less extreme, usually called Hypomanic states. The lows (depressive states) may be just as intense as in Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar I. More often than not, people with bipolar II have other mental disorders such as anxiety disorders, which can exacerbate symptoms of depression or hypomania. 
  • Cyclothymic Disorder: here the emotional ups and downs have less severe symptoms than bipolar I and II. Cyclothymic is a milder form of bipolar disorder involving lots of mood swings, that occur frequently. 

Treatment 

Treatment for bipolar disorder is lifelong and usually involves medication, therapy and certain lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet, keeping a mood journal, regular exercise, keeping a consistent healthy sleeping schedule, taking your medication as prescribed, maintaining a support system, etc. 

You don’t need to have all of these symptoms to have bipolar disorder. Many of these symptoms can be caused by other factors and illnesses. The best thing to do if to speak to your doctor about your condition. 

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