Bipolar disorder is an acute mental illness that is characterized by severe mood swings. The person may appear energetic at one time and then suddenly feels sad or miserable. This mental disorder can take a toll on one's life and family members need to understand about the nature of the disorder to be able to help the person cope with the condition. While the classic symptom of a bipolar disorder is mood swing, such takes a different form. The mood swing is characterized by a mania or a sudden high emotion and may transition back to depression or the sudden feeling of sadness. Owing to this characteristic symptom, the bipolar disorder is also referred to a manic depression.
The bipolar disorder can become bothersome to the person affected by it and the manic depressive state can encourage the development of a suicidal tendency. Mental health professionals usually categorize the condition into bipolar I, bipolar II, Cyclothymic Disorder and Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.
What are the causes of bipolar disorder?
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but health professionals believe that this kind of mental condition is due to the combination of different causative factors.
The risk of developing bipolar disorder is higher among individuals with positive family history of the mental illness. Medical studies view some correlative relationship between bipolar and schizophrenia, which tend to share the same genetic link.
An imbalance in the brain chemical activities is considered to be a causative factor that influences the mood changes experienced by the affected individual. The neurotransmitter activities have an influence on triggering the manic depressive state of the person and it can also result in hormonal imbalance.
Environmental factors are also considered to affect the development of bipolar disorder, especially when the person is experiencing a highly emotional event, such as a death in the family or a divorce. Teens are likely to be susceptible to manic depression caused by environmental factors.
What are the classic symptoms of bipolar disorder?
Both men and women who experience the disorder manifest similar symptoms. While these symptoms are commonly experienced by any ordinary person, the extent by which they occur among bipolar is quite extreme.
Symptoms of Mania
- decreased need for sleep
- increased energy physically and mentally
- racing thoughts and speaks very fast
- having delusions and hallucinations
- heightened mood and exaggerated optimism
- excessive irritability, aggressive behavior, and impatience
- poor judgment that tends to become impulsive
- reckless behavior
- inflated sense of self-importance
- difficulty concentrating
Symptoms of Depression
- loss of interest or pleasure in doing usual activities
- lasting sad or experiencing crying spells
- irritable mood or restlessness
- loss of energy or fatigue
- feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- oversleep or unable to sleep
- difficulty concentrating which affects performance in school or work
- loss in appetite or overeating which results weight loss or gain
- experiencing chronic and persistent pain in body without physical injury or illness
- inability to experience pleasure
- feeling of always fatigue or decreased in energy
- feeling of hopelessness or despair
- feeling of worrying and anxiety
- Suicidal attempts
How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?
Suicide attempts are fairly common even at the early stage of the disorder. An early diagnosis and intervention is crucial in order to help the person with a bipolar disorder before the condition progresses into a more serious mental illness. You should suspect that mania is present when the person manifests any three from the above symptoms and there is a depression when any five of the depression symptoms mentioned above are present. It is important to take the affected individual to a professional in order to obtain a more accurate diagnosis for the symptoms he or she manifests.
Treatment and intervention for bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder is a long-term illness. Without proper treatment, the symptoms may become worse and the person may experience more severe manic and depressive episodes. This mental condition does not only involve the affected person, but also the family members. That is why in most treatment interventions, doctors usually involve the family members as a support group for the patient. The gold standard of treatment for bipolar disorder is medication. Others include psychotherapeutic methods and alternative medicine, as among others.
Medicine helps to control the neurostimulation that is occurring in the brain that caused the fluctuating moods of the person with a bipolar disorder. However, medical therapy can involve side effects. Doctors take note that individuals on medications may experience a rapidly developing cycle of mania and hypomania state. This makes pharmaceutical intervention under the close supervision of a doctor crucial. Lithium Carbonate or Lamotrigine is the most commonly prescribed medications in managing the bipolar symptoms. Lamotrigine in particular is the best choice in preventing depression symptoms while sodium valproate is also prescribed as a mood stabilizer. Other anticonvulsants used in bipolar disorder include carbamazepine, which is an effective medication for rapid cycling bipolar disorder, and lamotrigine, which is the first anticonvulsant that is proven to treat bipolar depression. Other antipsychotic medications like Quetiapine, Olanzapine and Chlorpromazine also treat anxiety in acute manic episodes.
Psychotherapeutic intervention takes different forms in treating bipolar disorder. The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most common of all. The main objective of this kind of treatment is to recognize and distinguish what a bipolar disorder sufferer negatively thinks about and makes them behave the way they do. In the course of treatment, the negative thoughts and behaviors are being substituted with optimistic views and actions.
Family therapy involves the participation of the family members of the patient. The approach of treatment is to identify common stressors in the home that can trigger the patient's symptoms. The members of the family are taught on how to cope with the condition of their loved one and how they can provide support and proper management at home. In group therapy, the patient mingles with individuals having the same disorder. The therapy provides a forum for them to communicate and express their feelings, their anxiety and problems. It helps them to develop healthy relationship skills.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
This therapy is ideal for people who have severe depression with suicidal tendencies or for people who have undergone treatment for bipolar without any improvement. The process triggers a seizure using electroconvulsive therapy that can induce mood changes from a negative to positive ones.
In severe cases of bipolar disorder episodes, hospitalization may be indicated in order to closely monitor the condition of the patient.
There are natural supplements that might help people with bipolar disorder like the St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) and other brands of herbal medicines composed of different amounts of active ingredient. These alternative medicines act as a mood stabilizer that can help reduce the manic depressive symptoms of the person with a bipolar disorder. It is important, however, to consult your doctor before taking any of these alternative treatments to ensure that it is safe and without side effect. Some of these medications may cause an adverse reaction to your health, especially when you have an existing other medical conditions that may be contraindicated to it.