Everyone experiences a moment of insanity, but with bipolar disorder, the peaks are more severe. Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive disorder, is a mental health condition that causes drastic shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behaviour.
It’s more than having a good or bad mood. The episode can last for days, weeks, or even months. Bipolar disorder is more intense than ordinary mood swings as it can range from extremely high, energized, elated or irritable behaviour (manic episodes) to extreme down, sad, indifferent or hopeless(depressive episodes).
During a manic episode, you might be charged up enough to do a week-long work in a day or feel well-rested after just two hours of sleep. On the other hand, when depressive, you could be too tired to leave your bed or even be filled with self-loathing.
Although the causes of bipolar disorder are not known, it is often hereditary. Despite being a lifelong disorder, it can be managed by following a treatment plan through medication and psychotherapy. Therefore, it is vital to know the symptoms of the disorder.
Signs you have Bipolar Disorder
The symptoms and severity of bipolar disorder vary from person to person. Although the condition can occur at any age, it’s usually diagnosed in the early years. Some of the symptoms to look out for include:
Manic symptoms (and hypomania)
Feelings of heightened energy and euphoria characterize the manic phase. If you’re experiencing a manic episode, you would feel optimistic and powerful. While manic might feel good at first, it can also get out of control. Having these symptoms might make you become aggressive and make drastic decisions. This is why some people become delusional and start hearing voices during this period.
Common signs and symptoms of mania
- Having racing thoughts
- Delusion: hearing voices
- Making drastic decisions
- Feeling very high and elated
- Inability to sleep
- Taking on more work than usual
- Getting easily distracted, etc.
Most people in a manic state have no idea about the negative consequences their actions can cause. People in this state are at risk of being suicidal, and learning from previous episodes can help manage the symptoms.
Hypomania is a mild form of mania. When in this state, you’d feel energetic and productive without losing touch with reality. It might seem as if you are in a good mood, but it can escalate into full-blown mania.
Bipolar depression is often mistaken for chronic depression, but most people with bipolar depression cannot be helped with an antidepressant. People with this episode often feel extremely overwhelmed to do anything. They feel helpless as a sense of failure and guilt, and these negative thoughts can lead to chances of suicide.
Symptoms of bipolar depression
- Feeling guilty, empty, and hopeless
- Less interest in things that you used to enjoy
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Overeating and weight gain
- Loss of energy
- Thoughts of death and suicide
- Isolating yourself from others
- Physical and mental sluggishness
Note: There can be a mixed episode of bipolar disorder which would involve mania or hypomania and depression. The combination of high energy and low mood usually makes for an increased risk of suicide.
What are the Types of Bipolar Disorder?
- Bipolar I Disorder: This is a mixture of mania and depressive episodes. The mania episode usually lasts for at least seven days, while the depressive episode lasts for a minimum of two weeks.
- Bipolar II disorder: This is defined by a mixture of hypomanic and depressive episodes. The symptoms of this type of bipolar disorder can disrupt daily activities.
- Cyclothymic disorder: This is a milder form of bipolar disorder. The symptoms include hypomania and mild depression episodes.
- Rapid-cycling Bipolar disorder: Rapid cycling is a very severe type of bipolar disorder and is diagnosed when a person has more than 4 episodes of mania, depressive, or hypomania episodes within 12 months.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
What causes bipolar disorder is unclear. However, some research suggests that it’s caused by genetics, while other studies point to external environmental and psychological factors. These factors are called Triggers, and they set off episodes of mania or depression.
- Genetics: Bipolar tends to be common among people whose immediate family member has a history of bipolar disorder. However, researchers are yet to detect the exact genes involved in causing bipolar disorder.
- Medication: Medications like antidepressants, appetite suppressants, caffeine, thyroid medication, and corticosteroids drugs can trigger mania.
- Biological structure and functioning: Studies have indicated that people with bipolar disorder have physical brain changes. Their brain differs from people who do not have bipolar disorder or any other mental disorder. Presently, diagnosis and treatment plans are based on symptoms and history instead of brain imaging. Detecting the brain difference can help scientists determine the best treatment plan.
- Environmental factor: Many people develop bipolar disorder due to their reaction to stress-related events and traumas in their lives, such as; childhood trauma, abuse, neglect, major life changes, substance use, etc.
What are the Treatments for Bipolar Disorder?
- Medicines: Medications can help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. There are different medications, so your doctor can give you different dosages and combinations depending on what works best for you. However, it is essential to be consistent with your medication and contacting expert doctors whenever you experience any side effects from the medicines.
- Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy aims to help people identify and change troubling emotions and thoughts. Cognitive and behavioural therapy are types of psychotherapy that help manage the way you think and behave. It also helps you focus on yourself and your relationships with other people.
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): ECT gives relief from symptoms of bipolar disorder through brain stimulation. It effectively treats severe manic-depressive episodes, especially when medication and psychotherapy are ineffective. It provides rapid results when the need arises.
Beyond treatment, other things to do include – engaging in regular aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming, or walking is healthy for your brain. Also, keeping a life chart that records daily mood symptoms, treatments, sleep patterns, and life events can help you and your healthcare provider track and provide the best treatment for you.
Other disorders related to bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Eating disorder
- Physical health problems, like thyroid problems, headaches, or obesity
- Alcohol or drug problems
- Intermittent explosive disorder
- Disruptive behavior disorder
PS: People with bipolar disorder are often misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. This misdiagnosis can make it difficult to treat bipolar disorder.