Bipolar Disorder, also referred to as Manic-Depression or Bipolar Affective Disorder, is a mood disorder that causes people to swing between extreme, severe, and typically sustained mood states which can adversely affect every single aspect of their lives. The two polar moods that they experience are that of Mania and Depression. These Bipolar mood swings can damage relationships, impair job or school performance, and even lead to suicide. Family, friends, as well as the people who are affected; often become frustrated and upset over the severity of bipolar mood swings.
Symptoms of the manic phase may include the following.
Symptoms of the Depressive phase may include the following.
The mood swings that occur with bipolar disorder occur over periods of two weeks to two months. Between these mood episodes, the person might experience a brief period of flattened or neutral mood. Although there is no significant gender difference in the occurrence of bipolar disorder, older individuals are more likely to experience depression and less likely to have mania; whereas in childhood it is more mania or a mixture of high energy with negative mood.
However, bipolar disorder is not the only disorder that can produce these mood swings. They can also be caused by other general medical conditions like hyper/hypothyroidism, bacterial or viral infections, or other hormone disorders. It is also often occurs with alcohol or substance abuse, anxiety disorders and personality disorders. This makes it rather difficult to make an accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
When does it show up?
Typically, bipolar disorder develops in late adolescence or early adulthood, and the average age of onset is 20 for both men and women. Often, the symptoms are simply passed off as mood swings and the disorder may go undiagnosed until the disorder reaches a critical stage.
The precise cause of the condition is yet unknown. Research has shown that between 80- 90% of those who suffer from bipolar disorder have a family history of either bipolar disorder or Major Depression. Even though the individual might have a genetic predisposition to the disorder, trauma, stress, and emotional conflicts can greatly increase the risk of developing it or triggering its onset.
Fortunately, the disorder can be treated in most cases provided that proper medication and therapy are prescribed and adhered to. Typically, the first line of treatment will involve psychiatric medication and once the symptoms are manageable, psychotherapy acts as supportive care. Ongoing protective treatment or therapy is recommended even when they have not shown evidence of mood swings for extended periods of time so as to prevent relapse of the symptoms.
Several different techniques are used in the treatment of the disorder. These include paying attention to automatic positive thoughts as potential triggers for mania, understanding triggers and ways of managing the illness, and improving communication between family members to reduce intense emotional conflict.
What to do about it:
Before seeing your doctor for a diagnosis, you might consider carefully writing down the symptoms that you observe, with specific focus on the above mentioned symptoms. A family history as well can be extremely helpful in an accurate diagnosis of the disorder and prescription of the appropriate treatment. Your doctor may have you fill out a mood questionnaire to assess mood symptoms and may also conduct blood and urine tests to rule our other causes of the symptoms.
There is hope.