Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder where you experience something called a manic episode that lasts at least a week. Many people with Bipolar Disorder also experience depressive episodes. These shifts in mood can happen over hours, days, weeks, or even longer. It is primarily a disorder of mood which can swing from one extreme to another. The high and low phases of illness are severe enough to interfere with everyday life.
To understand bi-polar disorder in a better way we need to understand manic and depressive episodes first.
A manic episode (also called Mania) is a period of time when your mood is extremely elevated, euphoric, or irritable, and you are much more active and energetic than normal.
The main symptoms experienced during a maniac episode are:
1. Feeling really confident, like you can do anything (even if impossible)
2. Feeling like you do not need to sleep (e.g., feel rested after only a couple of hours of sleep)
3. Feeling super talkative, like there’s a build-up of words inside you that need to get out
4. Feeling like your thoughts are racing and jumping from one idea to another really quickly
5. Feeling easily distracted by small and unimportant details
6. Feeling motivated to move around and get things done, often without accomplishing goals
7. Feeling like nothing can go wrong, even when you do really risky things, like having unprotected sex, using drugs, speeding, or blowing all your money.
A depressive episode is a period of time when your mood is really sad and low. The major symptoms of the depressive episodes are:
1. Losing interest in the things that you used to like to do.
2. Losing feelings of pleasure or enjoyment.
3. Eating much less than normal or much more than normal.
4. Feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty (without a good reason).
5. Sleeping much less than normal or much more than normal.
6. Having trouble concentrating or making decision.
7. Moving restlessly or barely moving at all.
8. Having thoughts of death and dying, including suicidal thoughts and plans.
9. Feeling really tired and lack of energy.
10. Attempting suicide.
Apart from depressive and maniac episodes there is mixed episodes too where a person experience symptoms of depression and mania or hypo-mania at the same time or quickly one after the other. This can be particularly difficult to cope with.
Types of Bi-polar Disorder
1. Bipolar I Disorder – This is when a person experiences at least one manic episode. He or she is also likely to experience depressive episodes. These mood changes can last hours, days, weeks, or even longer.
2. Bipolar II Disorder- This is similar to Bipolar I Disorder, except that the person experiences at least one hypomanic episode, instead of a manic episode, and will also experience depressive episodes. Hypomanic episodes are a less severe form of manic episodes.
3. Cyclothymic Disorder- This is when a person switches back and forth between periods of hypo manic symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms. The person’s symptoms are not severe enough to be considered a manic or a depressive episode, but they still cause a lot of distress or impairment. These mood swings last for at least 2 years, and usually much longer.
The causes are similar to other mental illness. Some of the causes are
1. Childhood trauma – like sexual or physical abuse, neglect, traumatic events, losing someone very close to you, such as a parent or carer
2. Stressful life events- like relationship breakdown, poverty or any traumatic loss.
3. Brain chemistry- some study shows that changes in brain neurotransmitters like Dopamine, Nor-epinephrine, Serotonin which are chemicals used by brain for transmitting information from one brain cell to another is a cause for developing bi-polar disorder
4. Genetic inheritance
Treatments includes both, self-care and medical treatments. Self-care includes that can keep a person functioning well in bi polar disorder are:
Build your support network- This involves talking to someone whom you trust about your OCD. This will also enable you to spend more time with friends and family.
Try peer support- Peer support group helps to make you feel accepted for who you are. This not only boosts the self-confidence but also helps a person to feel less isolated. This relieves a person when he/she find others with very similar experiences. Peer groups also focuses on breaking the stigma and providing information about the issues to masses.
Learn to relax- a person has to develop mechanism through which he/ she can manage stress by using some relaxation techniques.
1. Look after yourself – getting enough sleep and taking proper diet with some exercise is very necessary.
2. A clear emotional and social recovery goals, a crisis plan and a medication plan to be in place.
Medical and Psychotherapy treatments
Medical treatments help the brain to function better. A lot of different medications can be used to treat Bipolar Disorder. They are: –
1. Mood stabilizers
3. Anti-psychotic medications
Psychotherapy is helpful for dealing with the stress that a person experiences in Bipolar Disorder. It is applied alongside the medication. Some of the psychotherapy techniques includes: –
1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
2. Family-focused Therapy, which helps your family better understand Bipolar Disorder and learn better coping skills.