Bipolar Disorder

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness.  Bipolar disorder is a condition which adversely affects the brain and causes strange and serious changes in mood, ability to function, and energy which, in turn, adversely affects an individual’s  jobs and relationships.

People affected by bipolar disorder also experience changes in sleep patterns, behavior, and thinking.  It is estimated that within any given year 5.7 million American adults have bipolar disorder.   Those suffering from bipolar disorder may have times that they feel extremely happy followed by periods of deep sadness and depression.  In between the extreme mood swings those with bipolar disorder tend to feel normal.

What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

General symptoms for this mental condition include feeling extremely hopeful and happy at times followed by periods of deep depression, restlessness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Bipolar individuals may have the tendency to speak very fast, may become hypersexual, feel little need for sleep and experience inability to make good decisions, feelings of complete hopelessness or worthlessness.

The condition is often connected to alcoholism and drug addiction, taking risks with sex and money, and acting impulsively. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder may lose or gain weight due to changes in appetite, show difficulty with decision-making processes, and preoccupation with death and suicide.

Depression cycles, in turn, are followed by manic episodes that are usually characterized by exaggerated self-esteem, heightened creativity and level of energy.

Bipolar Disorder Causes

It is not completely clear what causes bipolar disorder. We do know that the condition is hereditary and, therefore, some people may simply have genes which make them susceptible to it. However, not everyone with a first degree relative with bipolar disorder will go on to develop the condition themselves, though they are more vulnerable to it.

It’s also clear that those with the disorder have disturbances in the behavior of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain which work to help brain cells communicate. This is what causes the dramatic fluctuations in moods.

It is believed that these factors may make an individual vulnerable to bipolar symptoms, but it is usually an environmental trigger which causes the disorder to rear its head.

Known triggers for bipolar include:

  • Stress
  • Use of street drugs, particularly cannabis, cocaine and amphetamines
  • Emotional trauma, such as the death of a family member
  • Use of some medications such as antidepressants

How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?

Medication

Medication is the main form of treatment for bipolar disorder and includes mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs comprised of Tegretol, Lamictal, Lithium, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Depakote, as well as antidepressants.  Medication is used in conjunction with talk therapy for best results.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy plan include interpersonal and family therapy together with cognitive-behavioral treatment. Peer and self-help supporting groups can also be relevant solutions for treating bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Prevention

There is no clear way to prevent bipolar disorder, but those who are at an increased risk of the condition due to their family history may be able to reduce environmental factors which could trigger it.

Firstly, it may be helpful to visit a therapist on a regular basis to help you cope with periods of stress or emotional trauma which could trigger bipolar symptoms. Furthermore, a therapist may be able to recognize symptoms of bipolar early in order that suitable treatment or intervention can be provided before the condition becomes very severe.

It’s also important to avoid excessive consumption of alcohol or the use of street drugs, which are known to trigger bipolar symptoms. Even using a drug once could be enough to trigger the disorder.

Finally, adopting strategies to cope with stress could also be useful in preventing bipolar disorder. Frequent exercise can help to relieve stress, and meditation may be helpful too. Even starting a relaxing hobby, such as painting, walking or writing can help to alleviate stress.

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Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
November 16, 2017