Understanding Bipolar Disorder
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a mental illness marked by extreme mood swings. Individuals with bipolar experience periods of mania and hypomania, where they experience elevated mood, increased energy, and sometimes impulsive or reckless behavior. This alternates with low moods called depressive episodes.
Symptoms typically appear early – often in the late teens or early twenties. However, bipolar can develop at any age.
During mania or hypomania, a person with bipolar disorder might:
- Feel restless or irritable
- Have racing thoughts
- Talk quickly
- Need little sleep
- Engage in risky behaviors
In the depressed phase, an individual may:
- Lose interest in activities
- Experience low energy
- Have negative thoughts
- Sleep too much or too little
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
The exact cause of this disorder is unknown. However, research suggests a combination of biological and environmental factors may lead to its development.
Biological factors include:
- Chemical imbalances in the brain, especially dopamine and serotonin
- Genetics – the disorder appears to run in families
Environmental factors can include:
- Life stresses like trauma or abuse
- Major life changes such as the loss of a loved one
Diagnosis and Treatment
Bipolar disorder is diagnosed by a mental health professional based on a patient’s symptoms and medical history.
Various tools can help confirm a diagnosis, including questionnaires and advice from family members.
The primary treatment for bipolar disorder involves a combination of:
- Mood stabilizing medications
- Psychotherapy to improve coping skills and manage symptoms
- Lifestyle changes like a regular sleep schedule and a healthy diet
Other interventions may include reducing substance use, joining a support group and creating a crisis plan for when symptoms worsen. The goal of treatment is to help patients better manage the disorder and minimize disruptions to their daily lives.
In conclusion, bipolar disorder causes drastic mood swings that impact a person’s ability to function. Though there is no cure, treatments aimed at stabilizing moods and strengthening coping skills can lessen the severity and frequency of episodes. With proper diagnosis and a combination of medical, psychological and lifestyle interventions, many individuals with bipolar disorder are able to lead fulfilling lives.