Bipolar disorder (the former term was manic depression) is a mental illness. It’s marked with huge mood swings. Bipolar disorder affects around 2.5 to 5 percent of the adult population everywhere in the world. It has a pronounced family accumulation: in the first-degree relatives of bipolar patients (parents, siblings, children) the risk of the disorder is 3-4 times or 10-20 percent. The disease usually begins at a young age, often below the age of 18, and affects women and men at the same frequency. Apart from the inherited tendency, the environmental factors (primarily adverse life events and alcohol/drug use) play a remarkable role in the advancement of the disorder.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
Bipolar disorder has varied symptoms: The most noticeable signs are dramatic mood swings that include manic episodes to episodes of depression and then back again with relatively good moods in between.
Behaviors during a manic episode
- excessive happiness
- continuous excitement
- very fast speech
- racing thoughts
- judgment over everyone
- unreasonably advanced self-confidence
- overrated skills
- risky, potentially dangerous behavior: extreme sexuality, gambling
- intense energy
- decreased need for sleep
- increased aggression
It’s the milder form of the manic episode. Some people, when in hypomania, display increased creativity. Some others are irritable and irresponsible.
- sadness, hopelessness
- retreat from family and friends,
- no interest in anything
- a decrease or increase in appetite
- continuous exhaustion, weakness
- slow speech
- problems with memory, concentration, and decision-making
- thoughts about death or suicide
Symptoms of both mania and depression combined at the same time.
In the last decades, the most severe form of the disorder has become more common, with manic and depressive episodes alternating with monthly, weekly, or even daily frequency. It upsets the life of the patient and the environment. Because of mood swings, the patient becomes unpredictable, loses his sense of reality, which often leads to careless actions.
Symptoms usually occur in the late teens, but in rare cases, they occur in childhood. Diagnosing is relatively tricky, but it is helpful if we recognize the typical symptoms that something is wrong, and the rest is left to the specialist.
Unidentified or untreated cases can have many serious complications and consequences, such as family conflicts, divorce, secondary alcohol or drug use, or both. However, the most tragic outcome is suicide. Every tenth patient suffering from bipolar disease dies as a result of suicide. However, contrary to popular belief, mainly in the transition period from the manic phase to the depression phase and not during the severe depression. The combination of extreme energy and lousy mood contributes to a high risk of suicide. 25-50 percent of patients try to commit suicide at least once during their lifetime.
Bipolar disorder has effective treatment
It is treated with mood stabilizer medications, to assist in controlling the shifting in moods. Bipolar disorder is a life-long, recurring illness. It requires ongoing care.
Not only medication but psychotherapy and also helps in controlling the disorder. Psychotherapy assists people to understand their condition and to develop skills that contribute to deal with life events and circumstances that may trigger manic and depressive episodes.
As of today, there is no cure for bipolar disorder
However, it is a treatable and manageable condition. Most individuals with bipolar disorder lead a very productive and rewarding life.
They are working with a mental health professional, regularly taking medications and sticking to treatment plans, which may include regular exercise, relaxation, spending as much time in nature as possible, avoiding stressful situations, and sleep enough.
How family and friends can help?
It is essential that relatives, friends are aware of the symptoms of the disorder, and know what to do at each episode
Adapt to a temporary withdrawal from the patient.
Help to comply with treatments, such as to supervise the taking of medication, going to check-ups, and help with the daily agenda.
Encourage the patient to share his complaints and thoughts honestly
Strive to maintain the patient’s role in the family, and to maintain his / her capacity
Always take thoughts and references about the meaninglessness of life seriously!
Do not allow to make crucial decisions when the symptoms flare-up.
Reference: National Institute of Mental Health