Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. Although normal people have ups and downs from time to time, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe and can seriously damage relationships, job and academic performance and can even cause suicide. There is no known cure for the disorder but the symptoms can be treated and controlled with the right medications and psychotherapy. Without treatment, however, the natural course of bipolar disorder tends to worsen. Over time a person may suffer more frequent and more severe manic and depressive episodes than those experienced when the illness first appeared.
Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, some people have their first symptoms during childhood, and some develop them late in life. About 5.7 million American adults, and although the diagnosis is much more difficult, it still occurs in children and adolescents. Also, children and young adolescents with the illness often experience very fast mood swings between depression and mania many times within a day.
Bipolar disorder consists of highs( mania/manic ), which has a mild to moderate level called hypomania, and lows ( depression/depressive ) that have normal moods in between.
- Signs and symptoms of mania (or a manic episode) include:
- Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
- Excessively “high,” overly good, euphoric mood
- Extreme irritability
- Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
- Distractibility, can’t concentrate well
- Little sleep needed
- Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers
- Poor judgment
- Spending sprees
- A lasting period of behavior that is different from usual
- Increased sexual drive
- Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
- Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
- Denial that anything is wrong
Signs and symptoms of depression (or a depressive episode) include:
- Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Restlessness or irritability
- Sleeping too much, or can’t sleep
- Change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain
- Chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical illness or injury
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with three or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for 1 week or longer. If the mood is irritable, four additional symptoms must be present. While, a depressive episode is diagnosed if five or more of these symptoms last most of the day, nearly every day, for a period of 2 weeks or longer. Severe episodes of mania or depression can sometimes include symptoms of psychosis such as hallucinations and delusions.
Although cause or causes of Bipolar Disorder is not yet clear, most scientists and researchers would agree that there are different factors that act together to cause the disorder. Genetics and brain structure are two of the most researched fields when it comes to Bipolar Disorder. These research’ are not only focused on finding the causes of the illness but also finding new ways to treat it.
The current treatment for Bipolar Disorder are mood stabilizers such as lithium and anticonvulsants, patients would most likely have to take these medications for a continuous and long period of time to achieve the best results. There are also specific symptoms that often require specific kind of medication like insomnia which requires sedatives so that the patient can have a good nights sleep, these kind of medications are taken for short periods of time along with mood stabilizers.