Everyone is prone to experiencing emotional ups and downs. Still, when these are extreme, they can be classified as a mental health condition called Bipolar Disorder. People with this condition experience mood swings that affect their ability to function in everyday life. They may have episodes of depression or mania. The symptoms vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the mental health disorder. Some people only suffer mild attacks, while others suffer severe ones disrupting their daily routines and quality of life.
Bipolar Symptoms and Phases of Bipolar Disorder
Depression – People with bipolar disorder often experience depressive symptoms for long periods. This makes them unable to work correctly and perform daily activities like eating, sleeping, etc. It also affects their social interactions. During an acute phase of depression, patients usually feel sad, hopeless, guilty, worthless, angry, anxious, and irritable. They may be restless, tired, tearful, confused, and agitated. Some may experience suicidal thoughts or paranoia.
Mania – Episodes of mania are characterized by elevated energy levels, increased activity levels, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, poor judgment, and sometimes delusions. These manic episodes can last anywhere from 1 day to 3 days. During these times, patients tend to become very active and talkative. Their behavior becomes erratic and unpredictable. Patients might even engage in risky behaviors such as driving fast, drinking alcohol excessively, taking drugs, having sex without protection, gambling, shoplifting, running up huge debts, abusing substances, harming themselves physically, or hurting others. In some cases, even suicide attempts.
Mixed Episode – A mixed episode occurs where both depressive and manic symptoms appear simultaneously. This episode tends to happen more frequently among those with bipolar disorder.
Hypomanic Symptoms – These phases occur when someone has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When hypomanic episodes start, there will be no apparent signs of depression. Instead, patients will experience severe mania and exhibit high self-confidence, hyperactivity, distractedness, and an inflated sense of importance. Although hypomanics do not show any sign of sadness, they still feel low about themselves and experience a depressed mood.
Hypermaniac Phases – Hypermania is similar to hypomania, except this mania usually lasts less than 24 hours. Unlike hypomania, hypomania doesn’t cause as severe depressive episode symptoms causing as much distress to the patient’s family members. But they can lead to problems like trouble concentrating, making decisions, losing interest in things one used to enjoy doing and being easily irritated.
Cycling Episodes – Cycling refers to the repeated switching back and forth between manic and depressive phases. There are two types: Rapid cycling involves multiple cycles within one year, whereas chronic cycling happens every few years. Both forms involve frequent changes in moods.
Classifications of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar 1 (Manic Depressive Illness) -this form of bipolar disorder causes significant mood changes. When someone has this kind of bipolar disorder, they experience either hypomania or an episode of mania. Episodes of hypomania refer to a manic phase with elevated mood and a lessened need for sleep. In contrast, mania means a high energy level and reduced need for sleep. Both forms of manic depression cause significant impairment in functioning. Managing symptoms of mania make treatments for bipolar disorder vital for people seeking help.
Bipolar II – Unlike bipolar I, this form does not involve psychotic features. Instead, it involves cyclical lows and highs. There is no clear distinction between hypo and hyper-phases. Instead, there is just one phase of cycling.
Cyclothymic Disorder – Cyclothymia is another mental disorder term used to describe a state of chronic instability in the mood. Individuals with this condition usually do not meet the criteria for severe episodes of bipolar disorder. But they still exhibit many signs of being emotionally unstable.
Unspecified Bipolar Disorder – Unspecified bipolar disorder includes all other cases without a specific diagnosis. It also encompasses people who experience milder symptoms but whose behavior indicates that they might have a mental illness.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
Scientists haven’t found a single cause of the disorder. They believe several factors may contribute to the medical condition. Knowing these factors helps medical professionals discover better treatments for Bipolar Disorder.
Genetic Factors – If a child’s parents or siblings have the disorder, the risk of developing bipolar depression increases. However, family history’s role in creating a mental illness is not absolute. Studies of the disease in children show that even if one twin develops a mood disorder, the other may not.
Stress & Traumatic Event – Environmental factors and stressful life events, such as a death in the family, an illness, a complicated relationship, divorce, or financial problems, can trigger an episode of depression or manic episodes. Thus, a person’s handling of stress and irritable moods during distinct periods may also play a role in developing the illness. Managing stress is essential to mental health and may lead to effective treatments for Bipolar Disorder!
Brain Structure and Function – Scientists have found that certain brain parts regulate emotions, processing fear and emotional responses. Research suggests a correlation between bipolar disorder and the amygdala in the brain. Other studies show that patients with bipolar disorder have lower levels of the mood-regulating neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain.
Substance Use Disorder – Drugs like cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, opiates, phencyclidine, and hallucinogens can alter everyday brain chemistry. In addition, these drugs can interact with medications prescribed to treat a bipolar disorder diagnosis and psychotic symptoms.
Effective Treatments For Bipolar Disorder
Medication Treatment Plan – Several medications are effective treatments for bipolar disorder. These medications help treat bipolar disorder by controlling its symptoms. Mental health professionals use two types of medications to manage bipolar disorder; antidepressants and antipsychotics.
Antidepressants work on chemicals called monoamine transmitters in the brain.
Antipsychotic medication works by blocking receptors where messages are sent between nerve cells.
Psychotherapy – Counseling services with a mental health professional designed to improve coping skills and reduce feelings of anxiety and anger. Psychological treatments focus on helping individuals recognize common symptoms and patterns of behavior and understand what triggers episodes so they can avoid them.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is a behavioral therapy that focuses on changing negative thinking patterns creating adverse effects.
Interpersonal Psychotherapy aims at improving relationships.
Family-Focused Therapy tries to improve communication among members of the family.
Social Rhythm Therapy – One of few treatments for bipolar disorder that addresses daily life choices to develop healthy routines for better sleep patterns and eliminate sleep disturbance. It teaches them how to identify warning signs of mania and depression and learn ways to cope when those signs occur. Healthy life choices with everyday activities such as eating, exercising, working, etc., will reduce their chances of relapse of bipolar disorder symptoms.
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