Bipolar disorder is a commonly misrepresented mental health problem. What do you know about this condition?

Bipolar disorder, which is also called manic-depressive illness, is a brain condition that is characterized by unusual and drastic changes in energy levels, mood and energy, which significantly affects the ability of people suffering from this condition to carry out everyday tasks.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition, but can be controlled through appropriate mental health treatment and therapy.

There are three major types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder and Cyclothymic disorder. Some people may also experience bipolar disorder symptoms that are not specific to any of the three types of the condition.

They are all characterized by changes in mood, with a depressive and a manic period. During the depressive state, people suffering from bipolar may be sad, hopeless and depressed. During the manic period, they may be characterized by excessive happiness, energy and a positive outlook.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

The disorder is characterised by two distinct mood types. People are usually either manic or depressive. They may experience intense emotion, as well as dramatic shifts in personality, energy levels and sleeping patterns.

People who may be experiencing a manic phase may feel elated. They are likely to have high energy levels, are willing to engage in more activities, can be described as jumpy and may have trouble sleeping.

They could also be more active than usual, spend more time awake and are more likely to be overwhelmed by their thoughts. They also try to do a lot of things at once, engage in increasingly risky activities, talk really quickly and have a noticeable increase in their irritability.

People who may be experiencing a depressive episode may feel very sad and have low energy levels. They are likely to engage in fewer activities and have trouble sleeping. They often spend little amounts of time sleeping, or spend too much time asleep.

They are often worried, and are unlikely to enjoy even things which they may have been marked as enjoying previously. They often have trouble concentrating and are generally forgetful. They may even lose an overall sense of time.

During the depressive state, people may be more likely to have erratic eating patterns. They could eat less than usual, or more than is enough. They regularly feel fatigued and may spend too much time contemplating death and suicide.

Some mood episodes may have both manic and depressive symptoms. Mixed feature episodes can be characterized by shared features from both the manic and depressive aspects of bipolar disorder. People can be both happy and lethargic, have erratic sleeping and eating patterns while having low activity levels and engaging in risky behavior.

Some people may experience less severe symptoms of bipolar disorder. It may be characterised by reduced effects of both mania and depression. For instance, people suffering from bipolar disorder may experience less severe mania, which is called hypomania. They may experience slight improvements in energy and happiness levels. To people experiencing mania, these changes may not even be noticeable.

Diagnosis bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose as people who may have the condition may not seek treatment during their manic stage. Most people tend to seek medical help when they are experiencing the depressive stage.

If you feel that you may have manic-depressive disorder, you can talk to a doctor about it. They may carry out a range of physical tests to determine that there are no underlying problems that may be responsible for the symptoms. Afterwards, they may carry out a mental examination.

It is crucial that you provide detailed information regarding the symptoms to avoid misdiagnosis. Bipolar disorder may be confused with unipolar depression, which is a different condition altogether.

Can bipolar disorder be treated?

Bipolar disorder is a chronic and lifelong disease. People suffering from the condition will never truly be cured.

However, bipolar condition can be managed through a series of treatment and therapy options. These will reduce the effects of the drastic mood swings, which will help the people suffering from the condition to live more fulfilling lives.

There are medications that may be prescribed to stabilize mood and reduce the effects of depression. It is important to get medical advice from your doctor before and during the medication. You should report any side effects immediately to enable your doctor to identify the need for a change in medication. You should also follow your prescriptions to the letter.

Psychotherapy could also reduce the effects of bipolar disorder. You may undergo family-focused therapy, psychoeducation and cognitive behavioral therapy to help you understand bipolar disorder and to provide support.

You should remember to keep a life chart, which will better help you identify the mood changes, sleeping pattern, symptom occurrence and other factors that may be helpful in managing the condition.

What are the risk factors of bipolar disorder?

There is no single causative factor for bipolar disorder. Some factors may contribute to increasing the likelihood that a person may develop bipolar condition.

There is some genetic prevalence for bipolar disorder amongst people with certain gene markers. If your family members have a history of mental health illness, you may be at an increased risk of developing the condition.

However, genetics factors are not guaranteed to increase the risk. It is why it is difficult to find identical twins both having the condition, even though they have identical genes. Most people may not develop bipolar disorder even when they have a family history and genetic markers that increase the risk of its development.

Final thoughts

Bipolar disorder is a common condition, despite the lack of information on it. People do not know what to look for to identify the disease. The manic-depressive symptoms are an ideal sign for you to identify the condition and get someone the help they may need.

It is important to remember that people experiencing the condition need care and support when trying to find help. You could help someone experiencing the condition by providing emotional and physical support in whatever way you can.