Bipolar Disorder: What Is It?
Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental illness that involves the sufferer having at least one manic (overly excited or irritable mood) or nearly manic (hypomanic) episode. The mood swings of this condition can last for weeks at a time and cause significant work and relationship problems. This illness affects up to 5% of adults in the United States, afflicting men and women equally.
Depressive Phase Symptoms
The depressive symptoms that may be experienced in bipolar disorder are those of any major depressive episode, including significant sadness, irritability, hopelessness, and an increase or decrease in appetite, weight, or sleep. Bipolar depression can result in sufferers wanting, planning, or attempting to kill themselves or someone else.
Manic Phase Symptoms
The manic symptoms of bipolar disorder can include the sufferer having a grossly excessive sense of well-being or abilities, racing thoughts, decreased sleep, and speech that is rapid to the point of being hard to decipher. Manic individuals may also engage in unwise activities such as excessive sexual behaviors or spending.
Bipolar I vs. Bipolar II
In order to receive the diagnosis of bipolar I disorder; a person must experience at least one full-blown manic episode in their lifetime. Individuals with bipolar II disorder experience at least one hypomanic episode, in that they have symptoms less severe than fully manic symptoms.
Many people with bipolar disorder also have mixed features associated with their mood swings. This involves experiencing symptoms of depression during manic or hypomanic episodes.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
While no single cause of bipolar disorder has been identified, there are several factors that contribute to the development of this illness. Decreases in the activity of different parts of the brain have been observed when individuals with bipolar disorder are having depressive or manic episodes.
Bipolar Disorder: Who’s at Risk?
The symptoms of bipolar disorder tend to have two peaks of when they begin: between 15 and 25 and from 45-54 years of age. Other risk factors for bipolar disorder include having a close family history of depression or bipolar disorder (mood disorder) or a family history of substance-abuse disorder. Life stressors such as abuse may also trigger the onset of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder and Daily Life
The symptoms of bipolar disorder can interfere with a person’s ability to work, achieve in school, and maintain relationships. People with this disorder are also at risk for having other medical and mental-health problems.
Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse
Having bipolar disorder can increase the likelihood of the sufferer developing a substance-abuse problem from 22% to more than 50%. Some people with bipolar disorder may drink to numb their manic or depressive symptoms, a behavior often referred to as self-medicating.
Bipolar Disorder and Suicide
Up to 10% of people with bipolar disorder commit suicide, 10 times the risk of people who have no mental-health disorder. Possible signs someone is planning to commit suicide include giving away belongings and otherwise putting affairs in order. If you or a loved one has thoughts of suicide, immediately contact a suicide hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) and 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Anyone who has planned or attempted to commit suicide should immediately be taken to the closest hospital emergency room as this is a medical emergency.
Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder
When mental-health professionals assess a person for bipolar disorder, they gather a detailed history and conduct a mental-status examination. The history will explore the possibility that the person’s symptoms are caused by a medical condition such as a neurological or endocrine problem, medication side effect, or exposure to a toxin. The professional will also seek to distinguish symptoms of bipolar disorder from other mental-health problems, such as a substance-use disorder, depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia.
Medications for Bipolar Disorder
Medications are an important and effective part of treating bipolar disorder and include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antiseizure medications. All these medications have been found to help even out and prevent the mood swings suffered by people with bipolar disorder. Antidepressant medication may trigger mood swings in people with this disorder.
When Someone Needs Help
If you are concerned a family member or loved one may be suffering from bipolar disorder, speak openly with them and seek help from a trusted health-care professional. Often, educating your loved one that many people who have this disorder lead highly productive, satisfying lives with treatment can go a long way toward helping them accept help for themselves.
If you think you are suffering from any of these symptoms, please contact us today at 816.708.0508 or Schedule an Appointment online.