Bipolar disorder is a mental illness which leads to extreme changes in the mood. The temperaments might shift from euphoria to a sudden deep sadness. Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, includes emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).
Episodes of mood swings might be occurring rarely or multiple times a year. Most people will experience some emotional symptoms in the form of episodes; some may not experience any symptoms at all. Bipolar disorders not only impair the abilities to function at work but also damage one’s personal life.
A bipolar disorder affects about 2.8 percent of American adults each year and occurs in both men and women. But the characteristics and effects of bipolar disorder can vary greatly between men and women. A big reason for this is the role of women’s reproductive hormones. Fortunately, with proper medical treatment and symptom management, women with bipolar disorder have a favorable outlook.
There are several types of bipolar and related disorders. They may include mania or hypomania and depression.
Mania and hypomania are two distinct types of episodes, but they have the same symptoms. Mania is more severe than hypomania, causes more noticeable problems in the patient’s life, often triggers a break from reality called “psychosis” and require hospitalization
Both a manic and a hypomanic episode include three or more of these symptoms
- Unusual talkativeness
- Increased activity, energy or agitation
- Poor decision-making and impaired judgment
- Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
- Decreased need for sleep
- Racing thoughts
- Enhanced distractibility
- Underperformance in almost every task
- belief that nothing is wrong
- extremely forthcoming and risky behavior
Major depressive episode
A major depressive episode includes symptoms that might cause noticeable difficulty in daily life activities. Each episode includes five or more of these symptoms:
- Depressed mood; a feeling of sadness, emptiness and hopeless
- Marked loss of interest or feeling no pleasure in almost all the activities
- Insomnia or over sleeping
- Restlessness or slowed behavior
- Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite (in children, failure to gain weight up to the expectation)
- Loss of energy or fatigue
- Rushing thoughts of planning or actually attempting suicide
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Decreased ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
Other features of bipolar disorders
Bipolar symptoms may occur during pregnancy or change with the seasons. Some other symptoms of bipolar I and bipolar II disorders may include features like
- Anxious distress
- Psychosis etc.
Causes and Risk factors
A number of factors can be linked to the existence of a bipolar disorder, including
- Genetic factors might play a supreme role in the onset of a bipolar disorder as it is more likely to emerge in a person who has a family member with the condition.
- Patients with bipolar disorder often show physical changes in their brains, but the link remains unclear.
- Neurotransmitter imbalances appear to play a key role in many mood disorders, including bipolar disorder.
- Hormonal imbalances might trigger or cause bipolar disorder.
It often happens that the symptoms become noticeable only after being triggered by an environmental factor.
The risk factors of a bipolar disorder are:
- Alcohol abuse
- Drug abuse
- Having a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder
- Major life events, such as the loss of a loved one or exposure to a traumatic experience
When to see a doctor?
If you have any symptoms of depression or mania, see your doctor or mental health professional. Bipolar disorder doesn’t get better on its own. Getting treatment from a mental health professional with experience in bipolar disorder can help you get your symptoms under control
The individual and their family members, colleagues, teachers, and friends can help in tracking down the changes in patient’s behavior.
The doctor may carry out a physical examination and some diagnostic tests, including blood and urine tests. This can help in eliminating other possible causes (such as substance abuse) of symptoms.
Other conditions that may occur with bipolar disorder are:
- Anxiety disorder
- Use of drugs or alcohol to cope with symptoms
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Treating bipolar disorder
There isn’t a known cure for bipolar disorder. However, the symptoms of the condition are highly treatable.
Medications are often used as initial treatment to get bipolar symptoms under control. The drugs used primarily for treatment of bipolar disorder include
- Mood stabilizers
- Anticonvulsants etc.
While they can be helpful, these medications can cause side effects like drowsiness, nausea, vomiting and weight gain too.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is another treatment option. It is used along with medication for stabilizing the mood of the patient and helps them in adhering to the prescribed medication. The psychiatrist may also provide assistance in the form of care which includes
- Discussion of treatment options with the patient
- Maintaining a regular routine
- Helping them in getting adequate sleep
- Teaching patients the signs that may alert them of an impending bipolar episode
- Engaging the patient’s family in the treatment
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
Electroconvulsive therapy has been publicized to be an effective treatment option for severe depression and manic episodes. It involves the use of electrical stimulation to induce a seizure in the brain. However, certain side effects can be associated with the ECT, such as
- Permanent memory loss (rare)
Natural remedies for a bipolar disorder
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids could help in regulating the mood. For this purpose, fish that are heavy in omega-3s, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, or omega-3 supplements are often prescribed with other medications.
This herb has been used for years to help in the stress management and has also demonstrated positive effects on people struggling with depression.
S-adenosylmethionine or SAMe, is a coenzyme (found naturally in the body) that has been shown to reduce symptoms in people with major depressive disorder
People who meditate using a supervised mindfulness-based cognitive therapy approach may see a reduction in depression.
5. St. John’s Wort
This herb is often used in Europe for mood management and is one of the better-known natural mood enhancers.
6. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy
This technique uses a supervised program of eye movements, combined with actively remembering traumatic experiences, to improve symptoms.
7. Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy
This technique teaches people with bipolar disorder to maintain a more regular schedule in all aspects of life, including sleeping, waking, eating, and exercise.
There are no known ways to prevent a bipolar disorder however; its symptoms can be reduced with a proper medical treatment.