Bipolar disorder is a medical condition that affects an estimated two million people in the US. It affects both women and men in equal measure. The disorder is associated with many causes some of which are genetic while others result from other factors. However, the exact cause of the disorder has not yet been established.
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In its initial stages, the condition has signs and symptoms that are easily identified. It is advisable for individuals to seek medical attention before the mild stages of the disease develop into full-blown bipolar disorder. There are various medications that have been approved as viable treatments for the condition.
Bipolar disorder is defined as a mood disorder where individuals suffering from the disorder show alternate moments of mania and depression. The manic moments are characterized by moods that are better than normal ones. The moods are mild but they may sometimes be extreme to the extent that they interfere with normal life.
It may take hours, weeks or months for the manic moments to disappear after which depression returns (Definition of Bipolar disorder 5). Bipolar disorder is also referred to as manic-depressive disorder. When individuals experience depression, they have feelings of sadness and hopelessness followed by loss of interest in activities they derive pleasure from.
The mood shift to the other direction is characterized by feelings of euphoria and a lot of energy. In some rare instances, symptoms of both mania and depression manifest themselves simultaneously in individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder.
Despite the fact that the disorder causes disruption and often takes long to recover from, individuals can maintain their moods by adhering to certain treatment procedures. Mostly, the disorder is controlled through psychotherapy or psychological counseling and taking prescribed medicines (Treatment for Bipolar Disorder 6).
The cause of bipolar disorder has not been completely established, but it is a common problem in families. Depressive or manic disorders may be manifest for the first time at teenage or early adulthood. The symptoms are usually subtle and confounding. Individuals who suffer from the disorder are usually ignored or misdiagnosed hence compelling them to undergo unjustified suffering. On the other hand, those who receive the right treatment and assistance lead normal and fulfilling lives.
Types of Bipolar Disorders
There are different subtypes of bipolar disorders with each disorder exhibiting its unique pattern of initial symptoms. The different subtypes include the following.
Bipolar I Disorder
The mood fluctuations associated with this type of bipolar disorder lead to significant hardships when performing normal jobs or interference with relationships. The manic periods of this subtype can be extreme to the extent that they lead to harmful outcomes.
Bipolar II Disorder
This subtype of bipolar disorder is not as severe as bipolar I. Individuals who suffer from this type may experience elevation in their moods, a sense of irritation and changes in the way they function, but generally their daily life routines are not affected in any way. Instead of mania showing itself full-blown, individuals experience hypomania which is not as severe as mania. Moments of depression in this bipolar disorder usually take a longer period of time than in bipolar I.
This subtype of bipolar disorder which is also referred to as cyclothymia is mild in nature. With this type of disorder, the moments of depression and hypomania may be disruptive. However, the high and low instances are less severe than the ones experienced in bipolar I and bipolar II.
Myths and Facts about Bipolar Disorder
There are different myths and facts related to bipolar disorder. The first myth associated with the disorder is that individuals who suffer from the condition do not recover or live normal lives. The fact regarding this myth is that many individuals who suffer from the condition succeed in their careers, lead fulfilling family lives and have successful relationships.
To live with the condition is a challenging situation. But in the presence of the right treatment, healthy skills to cope with the condition and appropriate support systems, individuals live and manage bipolar disorder well.
The second myth surrounding bipolar disorder is that individuals who suffer from the condition are always either in depression or in a manic situation. The fact is that moments of depression among individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder are common than moments of mania. It is also possible for manic to be mild such that it is not recognized. Individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder can also stay with the conditions for long periods without portraying any symptoms (Bipolar Disorder 4).
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The third myth related to bipolar disorder is that the only thing that is affected by the disorder is the mood. The fact is that the condition also affects other aspects in the lives of individuals who suffer from the condition. For instance, the condition is linked with anxiety, health problems like heart diseases, diabetes and issues that touch on blood pressure.
The fourth myth related to bipolar disorder is that the only remedy for the condition is medication. The fact is that medication forms the basis of attempts to treat bipolar disorder but this does not mean that there are no other methods that are used to treat the disorder.
Self-help strategies and therapy are methods that play a crucial role in dealing with bipolar disorder. Individuals who detect symptoms of bipolar disorder can control the situation through regular exercises, eating well, sleeping enough, checking their moods regularly and staying close to people who can support them. They can also ensure that they avoid anything that causes them stress.
Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder appears differently in different individuals. The symptoms of the condition vary in frequency, severity and their pattern. Some individuals experience frequent moments of depression or mania, while others have equal alternations between depression and mania.
Some individuals experience disruption of their moods frequently while others do not experience as many mood disruptions throughout their lives. Bipolar disorder is characterized by four different types of mood episodes which include depression, hypomania, mania and mixed episodes.
Signs and Symptoms of Mania
During the manic stage of bipolar disorder, individuals experience increase in their energy, euphoria and a sense of creativity. They are usually very talkative, fail to get sleep and exhibit signs of hyperactivity. They also have feelings of being in possession of great power or headed for great things.
But while individuals who experience mania feel nice at first, they soon become uncontrollable. They often behave in a reckless manner during this phase, engaging in unbecoming behavior such as irresponsible sexual activities, gambling away financial resources, or investing foolishly.
In addition, they are easily angered, become aggressive and irritable which causes them to pick fights with individuals who do not show willingness to cooperate with them. They lay blames on other people once their behavior is questioned. Some even suffer from delusions and begin to respond to imaginary voices (Bipolar Disorder 6)
Symptoms of Hypomania
Hypomania is usually not as severe as mania. Individuals who experience hypomania feel energetic, euphoric and highly productive, but have the capacity to continue with their normal daily activities without losing touch with reality. Some people may look at hypo manic individuals as people who exhibit abnormally good moods.
However, the condition leads to wrong decisions which are detrimental to careers, relationships and reputation of individuals. In addition, the condition grows to complete mania or serious depressive disorder afterwards. Individuals who suffer from hypomania show the following signs and symptoms
The first sign of hypomania is that individuals who suffer from the condition are characterized by rapid talk that other people find difficult to cope with. The second symptom of the condition is that individuals engage in reckless actions with little regard of the consequences.
The third symptom is that victims of hypomania are easily distracted and it is difficult for them to concentrate in what they do. The fourth symptom of hypomania is that the individuals sleep for few hours and feel abnormally energetic. The fifth symptom of the condition is that individuals who suffer from hypomania exhibit impaired judgment. The sixth symptom of the condition is that the individuals have unrealistic beliefs concerning their powers and capabilities.
Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Depression
Bipolar and regular forms of depression were not in the past considered as different conditions. However, research continuously highlights major differences between the two conditions with emphasis on the treatments recommended to deal with the conditions.
Majority of individuals who suffer from bipolar depression do not get help from the use of antidepressants. Antidepressants are considered risky since they have the potential to make the condition worse. They trigger hypomania or mania, leads to mood swings, or interferes with other drugs that stabilize mood.
Although the two share several similarities, there are certain symptoms that appear more in individuals who suffer from bipolar depression than those with regular depression. For instance, bipolar depression often involves guilt, irritability, random mood changes and restlessness.
Individuals who suffer from the condition are also slow in movement and speech, sleep for many hours and add weight regularly. In addition, their chances of losing touch with reality are high and interference in their works and functioning at the societal level. Some of the common symptoms associated with bipolar depression include lack of pleasure, irritability, changes in weight or appetite, energy loss, hopelessness, memory and concentration challenges, suicidal thoughts and problems in sleeping (Castle 81).
Signs and Symptoms of Mixed Episode
The mixed episode is a combination of symptoms of depression and hypomania or mania. The common symptoms of this disorder include irritability, insomnia, anxiety, racing thoughts and depression that has elements of agitation. This scenario where individuals experience moments of high energy but are lower in moods is a dangerous one since it is characterized by high suicidal thoughts.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
The causes of bipolar disorder are not yet known. Research shows that certain individuals genetically run high risks of suffering from the condition. Yet not all individuals who have inherited susceptibility actually develop the condition. This implies that there are other causes of the illness apart from genes.
Neurochemical, genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a crucial role that initiates and enables bipolar disorder to progress. The prevailing thoughts on the cause of bipolar disorder are that it is a biological disorder that affects specific brain sections and is caused by inappropriate functioning of neurotransmitters.
The external psychological and environmental factors that aid bipolar disorder development are known as triggers. They can cause new depression and mania episodes or worsen already existing ones. However, most episodes of bipolar disorder do not require an obvious trigger. Although there is no known cause of bipolar disorder, the following clues are believed to be causes of bipolar disorder by researchers.
Researchers have found out that bipolar disorder is mostly familial. This means that the condition runs in families. Almost half of individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder come from families with members who exhibit mood disorders like depression. Individuals who have one parent who suffers from bipolar disorder have between 15 and 25 percent likelihood of suffering from the same condition while the risk of non-identical twins suffering from the condition is 25 percent.
The risk of suffering from bipolar disorder for individuals who have identical twins with bipolar disorder in their families is even higher. Researchers who carry out studies on adopted children have been able to gather more information about the environmental versus genetic and events in normal lives that cause bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is essentially a biological disorder which affects specific brain sections as a result of particular neurotransmitters functioning inappropriately. It may also be as a result of dysfunction of chemical messengers found in the brain. Some of the neurotransmitters involved with the chemicals include serotonin and many others. The condition may remain dormant until it is triggered by external factors.
There are certain environmental factors that are not fully understood that are associated with changes in the age that bipolar disorder starts. Occurrence of the disorder at early ages is associated with issues such as misdiagnosis and puts young people at the risk of contracting the illness. In addition, bipolar disorder may be caused by life events that lead to mood episodes. Despite the fact that substance abuse does not primarily cause bipolar disorder, it interferes with the process of recovery.
Certain medications like antidepressants have the capacity to stir manic episodes among individuals who are susceptible to bipolar disorder. This calls for exhaustive treatment for depressive disorders among individuals who once experienced manic disorders.
Due to the fact that depressive episodes have the potential of turning into manic ones after antidepressant medications, it is usually advisable to take antimanic drugs to limit the chances of occurrence of manic episodes. Antimanic drugs develop a partial ceiling that makes it difficult for mania induced by antidepressants to develop. There are other medications that are associated with high feelings that are similar to mania.
For example, appetite suppressants may cause an increase in energy levels, lack of sleep and cause individuals to talk a lot. Individuals return to normalcy once they stop the medications. Some of the substances that are associated with manic-like episodes include excessive caffeine, overdoses of certain drugs obtained over the counter and use of illegal drugs like cocaine and designer drugs (Castle 82).
Bipolar disorder can be caused by stressful experiences for individuals whose genetic composition makes them vulnerable to the illness. Stressful events that involve spontaneous or drastic changes either bad or good may trigger bipolar disorder. Some of the events include marriage, job loss, loss of family members or change of location. Individuals who are vulnerable to bipolar disorder should avoid stressful events, stimulants like alcohol and inadequate sleep because these factors trigger bipolar disorder.
Treatment and Medication of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a condition that can be treated contrary to what some individuals believe that the condition cannot be treated. The following are some of the medications available for treating bipolar disorder.
Mood Stabilizing Medications
Mood stabilizing medication is usually the first option to treat bipolar disorder. Individuals who suffer from the condition are exposed to the use of mood stabilizers for several years. Most of the medications fall under the category of anticonvulsants with an exception of lithium. Ideally, anticonvulsants are used in the treatment of seizures but control of moods is their other function. There are several mood stabilizing medications used in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
The first mood stabilizer used in treatment of bipolar disorder is lithium which is also referred to as lithobid or eskalith. It was the first medication for mood-stabilizing that FDA approved for use in treatment of mania. It is an effective medication for dealing with mania and prevention of other depressive complications.
The second mood stabilizer used in treatment of bipolar disorder is valproic acid which is used in place of lithium. Just like lithium, it is also an effective method of treating the disorder. In recent years, lamotrigine which is an anticonvulsant has been introduced as a mood stabilizer for treating bipolar disorder.
Atypical Antipsychotic Medications
This is another common medication for bipolar disorder. The medication is combined with other forms of medication. There are atypical and conventional antipsychotics used in treatment of bipolar disorder. The first antipsychotic medication used in treatment of bipolar disorder is Olanzapine which is administered together with antidepressant medication.
It helps in reducing the effects of serious mania. The second antipsychotic used in the treatment of bipolar disorder is Aripiprazole which treats mixed episode of manic disorders. The third antipsychotic used in the treatment of bipolar disorder is Quetiapine. This eliminates the symptoms associated with sudden and severe manic instances (Leay 130).
Antidepressants are occasionally used in the treatment of depression as a form of bipolar disorder. The medications are combined with mood-stabilizers. It is advisable to combine them with mood stabilizers because using them alone may cause individuals to switch into hypomania or mania.
Bipolar disorder is a medical condition that affects both young people and adults. There are different subtypes of bipolar disorder which exhibit different characteristics. Some are characterized by extreme cases of mania such that the normal functioning of individuals is affected while other types are mild and do not affect the normal functioning of individuals.
Bipolar disorder is a condition that is surrounded by myths but for every myth surrounding the condition, there are proven facts. Despite the fact that some individuals argue that the condition cannot be treated and that those who suffer from it cannot functionally normally, it has been proven that bipolar disorder is treatable. Individuals who suffer from the condition can also lead normal lives.
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Definition of Bipolar disorder 2011. Web. <https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2468>.
Leay, Robert. Psychological Treatment of Bipolar Disorder. New York: Guilford Press, 2005.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder. n.d. Web. <https://www.helpguide.org/articles/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-disorder-treatment.htm>.