Bipolar disorder, which was once known as manic depression, is characterized by extensive periods of mania and depression. Depressive episodes are known to last longer than manic episodes, but this is not always the case. These episodes can last days, weeks, or months, and their severity varies on a case by case basis. The onset of bipolar disorder is common during adolescence and late childhood, as well as later in life.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder can be inconsistent, and as such, present differently in different people. However, it typically involves extreme mood swings that last for relatively long periods of time. Depressive episodes entail an individual feeling abnormally slow and lethargic, whereas during manic episodes, individuals often report feeling extremely energetic and overly active.
Bipolar disorder can go undiagnosed or be misdiagnosed as clinical depression if a client is in a depressive episode. Due to the duration of depressive episodes, which can last for six to twelve months, this frequently happens. Manic episodes are known to last only three to six months, and occur less often than depressive episodes in some patients. States of normality between bipolar phases are common, but it is also common for those who suffer from bipolar disorder to go from one extreme to the other without a period of normality.
Symptoms of depression include:
Bipolar presents differently in different people. It has been categorized into the following types:
This involves periods of extreme mood episodes, in which the person will cycle from severe depression to mania. You must have had at least one manic episode to be diagnosed with this,
The periods of mood elevation in this type are usually less extreme than Type 1 but will experience the same severe depression. This less pronounced manic phases is known as hypomanic. This means that people are less likely to be hospitalized during the manic phase, although due to this it is frequently misdiagnosed as depression. To be diagnosed with this, you must have had a major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks.
In this type, the person will experience features from both mania and depression at the same time. This could include high energy, sleeplessness, and racing thoughts coexisting with despair, depression, and suicidal ideation.
Genetic, neurological, biological, and environmental factors all appear to contribute to the likelihood of bipolar disorder. These factors alone can be enough to cause Bipolar alone but can also interplay.
On a biological level, it is said that levels of neurotransmitters in the brain can be responsible. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine regulate different aspects of our mood and personality, and when someone suffers from bipolar disorder the levels of these neurotransmitters can be imbalanced. Substance use is known to have lasting effects on the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, and incidences of Bipolar Disorder are extremely common in those who use or have used them.
Although there is not one known gene that is responsible for passing down mental health disorders, we understand that to some degree, they can be hereditary. Environmental factors also play a role in the development of Bipolar Disorder. Traumatic experiences and stress are examples of this. Pre-existing mental health conditions are also a key predictor for developing Bipolar Disorder.
There are a number of treatment modalities available to those who are suffering from bipolar disorder, including:
Medications to prevent episodes of depression and mania. These medications are usually what are called mood stabilizers, which are prescribed for daily use for an extended period of time.
Medications to mitigate the effects of episodes of depression and mania. These medications are to be taken at the onset of symptoms, rather than preventatively. They are more commonly prescribed to those with mild cases.
A range of therapeutic treatment methods which help individuals to identify the underlying triggers that instigate episodes of depression and mania.
Lifestyle coaches can also be used to help encourage a healthier lifestyle, including recommending a nutrition and exercise plan.
Those who are suffering from bipolar disorder, as well as any underlying mental health conditions, are encouraged to seek help as soon as possible. All mental health conditions have the potential to worsen over time, and the symptomatic behaviors of Bipolar can be dangerous to those who have it. This means that the sooner that a person receives intervention, the lesser their chances are of coming to harm.
With the right help, the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder are treatable. Although it can feel extremely isolating, it is one of the most common mental health conditions. This means that there are hundreds of thousands of Americans with it who are living stable, happy, and fulfilled lives. If you suspect that you may have Bipolar, it is advised that you speak with a healthcare provider to discuss treatment options.
For more information about this issue, please read our article on Bipolar Disorder.
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