You’re curious about bipolar disorder. Maybe a lot of questions: What causes it? What are the most effective treatments? We’ll respond to them as clearly and thoughtfully as we can, with the assistance of the best doctors available. We hope you find some peace right now—and plenty of solutions in the future.
What Is the Definition of Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, as the name implies, is characterized by polar opposite mood swings—at one time, you feel like you can conquer anything; at another, you can barely get out of bed. Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, affects up to 5.7 million persons. It affects both men and women equally, and the average beginning of symptoms occurs between the ages of 15 and 25. Of course, those are notoriously emotional years—first loves, college, and new jobs! When you add erratic energy levels to the equation, things get much more problematic. After all, how difficult is it to organize your week or maneuver your life when you don’t know which “you” you’ll be getting that week?
Bipolar disease, like many mental disorders, is genetic and runs in families, which means that one or more family members frequently experience a form of bipolar disorder. (It should be noted that the illness can begin as early as childhood or as late as the 40s and 50s.)
Are There Different Kinds of Bipolar Disoder?
Yes, there are four varieties, each with its unique set of symptoms and episodes. Bipolar I disorder, Bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder are three of the most frequent. Here’s what you should know.
Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I is defined by at least one manic episode that is preceded or followed by a hypomanic or major depressive episode lasting at least a week. Manic episodes can be so severe that they considerably interrupt your normal functioning or even cause you to lose touch with reality (psychosis). Individuals who experience a manic episode frequently express feeling invincible and ecstatic. You’ll usually have three or more symptoms, such as inflated self-esteem, decreased sleep, being more talkative, distracted, goal-directed, or idea-driven, or engaging in activities that can have painful or even financial consequences, such as spending thousands of dollars (you don’t have) on a designer handbag—or five. With bipolar I, you may even require institutionalization. The illness is distinguished by discrete phases of mania and depression.
Bipolar II Disorder
A severe depressive episode lasting at least two weeks and at least one hypomanic episode characterize Bipolar II disorder. Individuals with bipolar 2 rarely have manic episodes severe enough to necessitate hospitalization.
Bipolar II is commonly mistaken as depression since depressive symptoms are the most prominent when a person seeks medical help. When no manic episodes are present to establish bipolar illness, the depressed symptoms take center stage.
Cyclothymic disorder is a rarer form of bipolar disorder that affects around 3.29 million persons in the United States. It is defined by at least two years of multiple instances of hypomania and depressive symptoms. While symptoms are less severe than usual hypomanic and major depressive episodes, they are more prolonged. Symptoms can last for at least two months. Cyclothymia is characterized by impulsivity and poor decision-making, which affects relationships, family, and social life, as well as legal and financial concerns. Fewer than half of persons with cyclothymia will progress to a more severe type of bipolar illness.
What Are the Symptoms and Hints of Bipolar Disorder?
Before you self-diagnose, keep in mind that we’re not talking about being depressed after a split or having a bad day, or being overjoyed after a promotion or a new romance. These are the natural highs and lows that everyone goes through. The characteristic symptoms of bipolar disease are similar to riding the steepest roller coaster, with mood swings ranging from the lowest depression to the highest high (mania or hypomania).
During manic episodes, people with bipolar disorder can feel tremendously pleased and have endless energy. You may make rash decisions or act rashly. You can quickly become upset and agitated and act out; you can even feel euphoric, have a reduced need for sleep or sleeplessness, and have racing thoughts or an inflated self-image.
You may feel happy as if you’ve just won the lotto, while in reality, you’re wading through a pile of dirty dishes. Hypomania, which bipolar patients may also experience, is a milder type of mania in which you feel generally happy, with a greater sense of well-being and higher productivity.
This manic phase is characterized by a slew of symptoms, the majority of which revolve around a heightened or irritated mood. Goal-directed behaviors may include staying up all night cleaning obsessively or embarking on a shopping spree—things you would not normally do. Manic habits can disrupt school, employment, and relationships. Among the specific indications and symptoms are:
- Extremely upbeat. This isn’t your typical happy mood. We’re talking about feeling zippy and energized even in situations that don’t call for it, like getting excited about taking out the trash. It’s as though you’re not in control of your mood and are reacting to your surroundings. Instead, you’re locked in happy mode.
- Euphoric. This is beyond joyous; your enthusiasm and energy are almost uncontrollable.
- Jumpy. You can imagine how reactive you feel when you experience this kind of energy spike. Picture electricity zooming through your body.
- Racing thoughts. It’s difficult to keep track of everything going on in your head—you have so many ideas, goals, and opinions.
- Extremely talkative. You want to communicate all of your feelings, so you’re particularly chatty and may hop from one topic to the next.
- Pressured speech. This is a clear indication of a manic episode. It is associated with being chatty and is characterized by a continuous stream of speech without pausing as one would normally do during a conversation. It’s as if you’re just pushing through and not allowing the other person to speak, talking over them.
- Wired. People experiencing manic episodes believe they can stay up all night or do not require as much sleep.
- Excess energy. You have a lot of energy and ideas, so you start taking on a lot of new projects.
- Poor decision-making. As you might expect, a manic episode is not the best moment to make important decisions. Your emotions are distorted, and you have a diminished awareness of consequences and risks. It’s a frightening combo. You may make financial investments, engage in sexual indiscretions, or go on shopping sprees.
- Easily distracted. It’s practically impossible to concentrate with all of this internal racing going on.
- Cranky and/or impatient. It’s frustrating because you feel like no one can keep up with you.
- Invincibility. Together with this burst of energy and risk-taking comes a significant gain in self-confidence. Even people who are shy or meek may appear arrogant and believe they can achieve anything.
- high sex drive. You are constantly thinking about and wanting sex.
- Unattainable plans. You’re dead set on going to Paris, even though you don’t have the money.
- Psychosis. A loss of touch with reality, which may involve delusions or hallucinations.
And now for the crash. You may experience excessive melancholy or the need to cry, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, and a poor attitude toward life. You may have a greater need for sleep, be unable to finish daily duties, and be greatly disheartened. This isn’t simply mild melancholy; for others, it can be crippling depression with suicidal thoughts. Again, this can happen when nothing in your environment is to blame.
Particular signs and symptoms include:
- Low energy. This is the type of energy loss that makes you want to stay in bed or on the couch all day.
- Low motivation. You just don’t want to do anything.
- Lack of interest and a lack of pleasure or enthusiasm in daily activities. This is a classic depressive syndrome—things that were once intriguing and fun no longer hold any appeal.
- Feeling sad, tearful, hopeless, or empty on a daily basis. Imagine feeling blah with a tint of sadness, like at the end of a particularly sad movie when you’re done sobbing, the credits are rolling, but you just can’t turn the tv off; it’s as if you’re immovable.
- Hopelessness. You can’t see anything nice coming your way in the future.
- Changes in weight. A person suffering from depression may gain or lose a substantial amount of weight depending on whether it suppresses or stimulates their appetite.
- Feelings of exhaustion. You’re exhausted and want to sleep. (But sleeplessness is a symptom as well.)
- Indecisiveness. Maybe it’s because you’re hopeless or indifferent about everything, but you just can’t make up your mind about anything.
- Lack of concentration. You lose your concentration.
And just when you believe your emotions have reached rock bottom, the ride returns you to the pinnacle with sensations of pleasure and boundless vitality. Bipolar disorder is defined by severe mood fluctuations. They can occur as regularly as weekly or more infrequently—perhaps only twice a year.
Unlike a recognized menstrual cycle or a known allergy that causes a reaction, mood swings have no set pattern or predictability—you can’t plan a job interview or vacation for a week from Monday when you’ll be symptom-free. That is simply not how the illness works. And there’s no rhyme or reason to whatever comes first, depression or mania, or vice versa. Also, the duration of time spent in one state or the other can vary.
Bipolar Disorder Quiz
Do I have bipolar? Take this test to determine if you could benefit from further evaluation and treatment by a mental health expert.
Causes – Bipolar Disorder
Specialists are unclear as to what causes bipolar disorder. Physical brain traits or an imbalance in particular brain chemicals could be among the key culprits.
Bipolar disorder, like many physical problems, runs in families. You are more likely to acquire bipolar disorder if you have a parent or sibling who has it. The hunt for the genes responsible for bipolar disease continues.
Bipolar disorder may also be triggered by extreme stress, drug or alcohol abuse, or traumatic experiences, according to researchers. Childhood maltreatment or the death of a loved one are examples of such situations.
The Long-Term Impact of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness. There is no cure, but medicine, talk therapy, and other forms of treatment can help. Even so, there are possible long-term effects. Here’s what you need to know.
Pic: Bipolar disorder
Research shows bipolar disorder may damage the brain over time. Scientists think it’s because you steadily lose amino acids. They aid in the formation of the proteins that form the insulation that surrounds your neurons.
Bipolar disorder can have the following long-term effects:
Executive function in general (impulse control, organization, planning)
Your frontal lobe may also be impaired. That’s part of your brain that helps you remember words and make decisions.
Some of the medications used to treat bipolar disorder can alter how your body functions over time.
Certain organs may be affected by the mood stabilizer lithium. They include:
- Kidneys. Injury to your kidneys could produce a kind of diabetes called nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. In other words, your kidneys don’t respond to the hormone that maintains fluid balance. Symptoms include always feeling thirsty and urinating a lot.
- Thyroid. Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid produces insufficient hormones. This can lead to:
- Skin dryness
- Feeling cold
- Trouble thinking quickly
- Weight gain
3. Parathyroid. Hyperparathyroidism occurs when your parathyroid gland is unable to regulate calcium levels. Although it is a less prevalent long-term side effect, it might result in:
- Kidney stones
- Joint or bone pain
- Pain in the abdomen
Young ladies may be more vulnerable. If you take lithium, your doctor will most likely do tests to ensure that the medication is working properly.
If your mania and depression aren’t under control, you could combine an antipsychotic with a mood stabilizer. Antipsychotics can increase your chance of:
- Diabetes and glucose intolerance
- Dyslipidemia (abnormal lipid levels) (abnormal lipid levels)
- Movement problems like dyskinesia or Parkinson’s disease
Bipolar disorder can be managed by a mix of medication and therapy.
Medications. Antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and antidepressants can all help with mood swings and other symptoms. It is critical to understand the advantages and disadvantages of drugs. People may need to experiment with various medications before determining which one works best for them. They should never discontinue taking a prescription without consulting their doctor first.
“Chat therapy” (psychotherapy). Therapy assists people in accepting their disease, recognizing the signals of a manic or depressive episode, developing coping skills for dealing with stress, and adhering to a drug plan. Counseling also enhances family communication and bonds.
Long-term, ongoing treatment. While a person may feel great in between episodes, a long-term, continuous treatment plan can minimize the intensity and frequency of mood swings.
Bipolar disorder is a severe public health issue that causes significant morbidity and has a high fatality rate. Treatment is complicated by several factors, including mood swings and their implications on patient well-being, treatment nonadherence, and concomitant psychiatric conditions. Mania, despair, and other episodes have guidelines. Randomized studies are being conducted on a variety of pharmacologic and psychosocial therapies. A thorough evaluation with a professional and experienced psychologist or psychiatrist is required, and early diagnosis considerably improves the prognosis.