Bipolar Disorder, also known as Manic-Depressive Illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar Disorder Symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. Bipolar Disorder often develops in a person’s late teens or early adult years. At least half of all cases start before age 25. Some people have their first symptoms during childhood, while others may develop symptoms late in life. Bipolar Disorder is not easy to spot when it starts. The symptoms may seem like separate problems, not recognized as parts of a larger problem. Some people suffer for years before they are properly diagnosed and treated. Like diabetes or heart disease, Bipolar Disorder is a long-term illness that must be carefully managed throughout a person’s life.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
People with Bipolar Disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called “mood episodes.” An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a Manic Episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a Depressive Episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both Mania and Depression. This is called a mixed state. People with Bipolar Disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode.
Symptoms of mania or a manic episode include:
- A long period of feeling “high,” or an overly happy or outgoing mood
- Extremely irritable mood, agitation, feeling “jumpy” or “wired.”
- Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
- Being easily distracted
- Increasing goal-directed activities, such as taking on new projects
- Being restless
- Sleeping little
- Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
- Behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable,
high-risk behaviors, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments.
Symptoms of depression or a depressive episode include:
- A long period of feeling worried or empty
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.
- Feeling tired or “slowed down”
- Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- Being restless or irritable
- Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
- Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.
Risk Factors for Bipolar Disorder
There is no single cause, rather, many factors likely act together to produce the illness or increase risk.
Bipolar Disorder tends to run in families, so researchers are looking for genes that may increase a person’s chance of developing the illness.
2. Brain structure and functioning
The brains of people with bipolar disorder may differ from the brains of healthy people or people with other mental disorders.
Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder
The first step in getting a proper diagnosis is to talk to a doctor, who may conduct a physical examination, an interview, and lab tests. The doctor or mental health professional should conduct a complete diagnostic evaluation. He or she should discuss any family history of Bipolar Disorder or other mental illnesses and get a complete history of symptoms. The doctor or mental health professionals should also talk to the person’s close relatives or spouse and note how they describe the person’s symptoms and family medical history.
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder
There is no cure for Bipolar Disorder, but proper treatment helps most people with Bipolar Disorder gain better control of their mood swings and related symptoms. This is also true for people with the most severe forms of the illness.
Medication of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder can be diagnosed and medications prescribed by people with an M.D. (doctor of medicine). Usually, Bipolar Medications are prescribed by a psychiatrist. Not everyone responds to medications in the same way. Several different medications may need to be tried before the best course of treatment is found. Types of medications generally used to treat Bipolar Disorder are listed:-
- 1. Mood stabilizing medications are usually the first choice to treat Bipolar Disorder.
- Lithium (sometimes known as Eskalith or Lithobid) was the first mood-stabilizing medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the 1970s for treatment of Mania.
- Valproic Acid or Divalproex Sodium (Depakote), approved by the FDA in 1995 for treating mania, is a popular alternative to lithium for Bipolar Disorder. It is generally as effective as lithium for treating Bipolar Disorder.
- The Anticonvulsant Lamotrigine (Lamictal) received FDA approval for maintenance treatment of Bipolar Disorder.
- 2. Atypical antipsychotic medications are sometimes used to treat symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. Often, these medications are taken with other medications.
- Olanzapine (Zyprexa), when given with an antidepressant medication, may help relieve symptoms of severe mania or psychosis.
- Aripiprazole (Abilify), like olanzapine, is approved for treatment of a manic or mixed episode. Aripiprazole is also used for maintenance treatment after a severe or sudden episode.
- Quetiapine (Seroquel) relieves the symptoms of severe and sudden manic episodes. In that way, quetiapine is like almost all antipsychotics.
- Risperidone (Risperdal) and ziprasidone (Geodon) are other atypical antipsychotics that may also be prescribed for controlling manic or mixed episodes.
- 3. Antidepressant medications are sometimes used to treat symptoms of depression in bipolar disorder. People with Bipolar Disorder who take antidepressants often take a mood stabilizer too. Doctors usually require this because taking only an antidepressant can increase a person’s risk of switching to mania or hypomania, or of developing rapid cycling symptoms.
- Fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), and bupropion (Wellbutrin) are examples of antidepressants that may be prescribed to treat symptoms of Bipolar Depression.
- Bipolar Disorder Is Insidious (forbes.com)