Bipolar Disorder: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment
Every one of us suffers from mood swings from time to time. Feelings of happiness, sadness and anger change according to circumstances. This is not the case for a person with bipolar disorder. They experience extreme mood changes irrespective of the situation surrounding them. The bipolar disorder symptoms interfere in their entire process of thinking, behaviour and brain functions.
Showing signs of bipolar disorder does not mean that a person is weak or unstable. It is a long-term illness like diabetes or heart disease that needs to be managed carefully. Treatment of bipolar disorder becomes feasible if its symptoms are viewed as a more significant part of the problem than small, separate issues.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that influences a person’s mood and energy levels tremendously. It is ranked as one of the 20 leading causes of disability. It is widely diagnosed among males and females across various countries and cultures.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms: How Do You Know If You Have Bipolar Disorder?
According to a study published by M. Solmi et al., the typical age at which the signs of bipolar disorder occur is 19.5 years. One of the classic signs of bipolar disorder is the extreme, unpredictable mood changes that are not related to the happenings in a person’s life.
People with bipolar disorder go through intense emotional states called mood episodes that occur at different periods. The mood episodes occur in two forms. One is the manic episode where a person is overjoyed and excited. This phase is followed by the depressive episode, where the person feels extremely sad, helpless and hopeless. When both manic and depressive episodes occur at the same time, it is referred to as the mixed episode.
If your symptoms occur every day for at least a week or two, it indicates a bipolar disorder episode. At times, bipolar disorder symptoms could be so intense that it disturbs a person’s ability to concentrate in school, work or home.
Signs Of Bipolar Disorder Are As Follows:
1. Manic Episode:
- Overly happy or outgoing mood: You feel extremely good or happy, as if you’re on top of the world. Other people might notice that you are not your usual self.
- Feeling jumpy or wired: You feel self-confident to the extent where you think you possess God-like powers.
- Irritation: You experience intense irritation to the extent where you scream at people or start fights and arguments.
- Talking very fast and Racing thoughts: Inability to slow down thoughts that you end up speaking faster than usual.
- Being easily distracted and Restlessness: Due to constantly racing thoughts, you find it hard to slow down and focus on one particular thing.
- Increased focus on taking up new projects: You feel hyperactive, full of energy and over-schedule your projects
- Reduced sleep: You find yourself not needing sleep, and you do not miss it.
- Risky behavior: Risky behavior include impulsive business investments, sexual activity, reckless spending.
2. Depressive Episode:
- Worry: You feel helpless, sad, hopeless and worthless.
- Loss of interest: There is a strange emptiness in you that you lose interest in activities that you usually enjoy.
- Tiredness: You feel tired all the time. You do not feel motivated to do anything.
- Trouble concentrating: Your mind does not focus on one thing, and you face difficulty in remembering things and making decisions.
- Changes in your routine: Your daily routine like eating and sleeping is disturbed. You feel more hungry than usual, with irregular sleep schedule and fluctuations in your body weight.
- Suicidal thoughts: You often wonder about death and do not see a point in living.
Hypomania or a hypomanic episode refers to the state where your mood swings are not that extreme. Hypomania is less intense than mania, but it is still disruptive. During this episode, you could feel good, productive and highly functioning. Hypomania could progress to a full-blown manic episode or severe depression.
4. Mixed episode:
Manic and depressive episodes often occur in cycles and are unpredictable. Sometimes it all gets mixed up, and you feel periods of highs followed by lows, and it is a vicious cycle. Some of the common symptoms of mixed episodes are:
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in appetite
- Suicidal thoughts
- A mix of sadness and extreme energy
Sometimes bipolar disorder can also induce psychotic symptoms. For example, a bipolar disorder patient might believe they are famous, have a lot of money, or have special powers during a manic episode. In the depressive episode, the person believes that they are ruined, penniless and on the roads. These bipolar disorder symptoms synchronise with another disorder called schizophrenia, and this may lead to the wrong diagnosis.
Treatment Of Bipolar Disorder:
Medications and psychotherapy are two effective modes for the treatment of bipolar disorder. If you or someone you know have this disorder, it is advisable to contact a qualified mental health practitioner for professional guidance.
When it comes to treatment of bipolar disorder, you need to remember that even if you feel better, you should not discontinue the medications without your healthcare practitioner’s approval.
- Mood stabiliser: Your health practitioner will prescribe medicine like lithium which you need to take every day to prevent unpredictable and wild mood swings.
- Atypical antipsychotics: These medications have powerful sedating effects that help in controlling manic episodes and exaggerated thoughts. People who have to take antipsychotics on a long-term basis will be prescribed atypical antipsychotics like risperidone, quetiapine, olanzapine etc.
- Antidepressants: Though antidepressants are primarily prescribed for depression, they are also helpful to cope with bipolar disorder symptoms. These medications affect the concentration of neurotransmitters of the brain (serotonin, dopamine). Antidepressants should be used with caution in the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder, since they can also lead to manic episodes.
Psychotherapy or talk therapy can help you work out the cause of your illness. You can work with your close friends or join support groups.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: Your mental health practitioner will guide you to change negative thought patterns, feelings, and behaviour in cognitive behavioural therapy. This will minimise the occurrence of harmful behaviors.
- Family-focused therapy: Family-focused therapy is aimed towards helping the family and caretakers of the patient. This therapy guides them to identify new episodes early on and help their loved ones. This therapy also enhances communication and problem-solving abilities within the family.
Prevention Of Bipolar Disorder:
Even Though there is no sure way to prevent bipolar disorder you can prevent the worsening of mental health conditions. Pay attention to the warning signs and get treated at the earliest. Take the prescribed medication as directed and maintain a healthy lifestyle by avoiding drugs and alcohol.