Bipolar disorder – Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and more

Bipolar disorder – Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and more

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition resulting in extreme mood swings. Some older terms for the condition are bipolar disease and maniac depression. Unfortunately, bipolar disorder is not rare. In America, about 2.8 percent of people have been diagnosed with it. Even though there is no definite cure for the disease, some treatments and symptom awareness can help better manage it. Read on to know more about bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder
The changing moods do not follow any definite pattern when one has bipolar disorder. Some days the patient may feel a sudden switch in mood; it can be completely opposite. These mood swings can happen multiple times for months, weeks, or years. The gravity of the symptoms is different for everyone and may vary over time. At times, the symptoms are mild, while other times, they may be severe.

Prevalent mania symptoms include (highs)

  • Sudden switch from being joyful to being hostile and angry
  • Restlessness
  • Extreme excitement, hopefulness, and happiness
  • Displaying poor judgment
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid speech
  • Unusually high libido
  • Poor concentration
  • Being more impulsive
  • Increased energy
  • Making unrealistic plans
  • Not feeling sleepy, even after a long day
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Getting distracted easily
  • Larger sense of well-being and confidence

Prevalent depressive period symptoms include (lows)

  • Fatigue
  • Extreme sadness
  • Not enjoying things once loved
  • Feeling worthless and hopeless
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Forgetting things
  • Not feeling pleasure in anything
  • Talking very slowly
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia or sleeping more than usual
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Uncontrolled crying
  • Drastic changes in appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide or death or attempting suicide

Causes of bipolar disorder
Unfortunately, there is no clarity on the precise cause of bipolar disorder. But, several factors may be responsible for it, such as:

  • Genetics
    Bipolar disorder is prevalent in people whose close relative (sibling or parent) has been diagnosed with the condition.
  • Biological differences
    Typically, people with bipolar disorder undergo some physical changes in their brains.

Risk factors of bipolar disorder
In addition to the above-listed causes, some risk factors aggravate the risk of developing bipolar disorder, such as:

  • Indulging in substance or drug abuse
  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • Instances of high stress, such as a death of a close one
  • Familial link

Diagnosis of bipolar disorder
Medical experts use the criteria stated in the book, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition for bipolar disorder diagnosis. The National Institute of Mental Health states that for a person to be diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder, they must have had symptoms for at least a week or lesser in case of severe symptoms demanding hospitalization. In addition, the patient should have also experienced a depressive episode that lasted a minimum of fourteen days.

For bipolar II diagnosis, the person should have experienced a minimum of one depression and hypomania cycle. The doctor will also perform a physical examination. Beyond this, the doctor may also suggest some diagnostic tests like urine tests and blood tests to rule out any underlying cause.

Unfortunately, bipolar disorder diagnosis is challenging. Consequently, distinguishing between depression and bipolar disorder might be tricky. Also, diagnosis of bipolar disorder will be a lifelong diagnosis. The person may have some periods of stability, but they will have to live with the condition.

Treatment of bipolar disorder
Several treatment options are available to help manage the bipolar disorder symptoms and future episodes. The main treatments include:

  • Psychotherapy
    Talk therapy or psychotherapy helps identify and modify problematic behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. It educates the patient and the family and offers emotional support and coping strategies.
  • Pharmaceutical treatment options
    Some pharmaceutical treatment options can also help manage the symptoms better. However, there will be a lot of trial and error to identify the treatment that works best for the patient. The patient will be recommended a combination of pharmaceutical treatment options. Regardless, one needs to follow the prescribed course consistently to see a relief in symptoms.

Other treatment options

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
    It is a brain stimulation method to manage the symptoms. A medical expert may suggest ECT in severe cases or when other treatment options fail. Alternatively, some people pick ECT to accelerate the healing process, usually when the person is catatonic or susceptible to suicide.
  • Maintaining a life chart
    One can use the life chart to keep a tab on the mood, sleep patterns, life events, symptoms, and treatment measures. It can help the patient and the medical expert track the healing process.
  • Get physically active
    Exercising can elevate one’s mood and help manage the bipolar disorder symptoms better.

Knowledge is power. So, hopefully, the awareness of the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of bipolar disorder can help with better management.

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