Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness that is identified by alternating periods of mania and depression. It receives its name from these two alternating mental states. Bipolar disorder affects approximately three percent of the population in the United States.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
Mania is the most central defining trait of bipolar disorder. Individuals may initially seem upbeat, excited, energetic, and may experience higher levels of productivity. However, as the state intensifies, the affected individual hardly sleeps and becomes very erratic, and may make brash decisions with little to no regard to the future. At their worst, the individual may even experience psychosis, or a state of delusions and distorted beliefs.
Other symptoms of manic episodes include irritability, pressured speech, experience racing thoughts, and increased participation in impulsive and high-risk activities. To meet the criteria for a manic episode, the individual must experience at least two of these symptoms for over a week or more. additionally, these symptoms must also interfere with one’s ability to work and socialize. An untreated manic episode can last anywhere from three to six months.
After a manic state, a bipolar person may suddenly shift from mania to depression. Depressed individuals experience feelings of sadness, isolation, hopelessness, anger, and guilt. Such feelings may accompany suicidal thoughts. They may lose motivation and interest in activities they previously enjoyed. Their mental capacity is also affected, and they may have a loss of focus and a decrease in productivity. They may also experience symptoms such as feeling physically ill, chronic pain, changes in appetite, and sleep disturbances. Like a manic state, a depressive episode may last over six months if untreated.
Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis
Bipolar disorder is generally recognizable when an individual reaches adolescence or early adulthood. The younger a patient is when they begin experiencing symptoms, the more likely it is they will experience a depressive episode first. Many individuals first experience depressive episodes for a long period of time, making it hard to differentiate from regular depression.
There is no official bipolar test. Diagnosis is usually made with a mix of a patient’s self-reported experiences, reports from friends and family, and observation by mental health professionals, who usually rely on criteria within the DSM-IV and V for assessment.
Bipolar Disorder Treatment
There are many types of bipolar medication. The most proven and well-researched is lithium, a powerful mood stabilizer that has been proven to greatly reduce suicide and self-harm in bipolar patients. Other classes of medication include anticonvulsants, drugs originally intended for epileptic seizures that have also been proven to act as mood stabilizers. Drugs that work especially well for short-term treatment of manic episodes include antipsychotics, although mood stabilizers are generally more useful in the long-term. Antipsychotics are also used as ptsd medication.
There exists minor evidence that diet may play a role, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids may alleviate some symptoms.
Psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT) is also effective in the treatment of bipolar disorder, aiming to help patients identify triggers, recognize mood swings, and maintain supportive relationships. The latest and most effective therapy for bipolar patients is Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy. This treatment aims to help patients solve interpersonal problems caused by their condition, and also focuses on maintaining daily routines such as eating, sleeping, bathing, exercise, working, and socializing to prevent symptoms from upsetting their daily rhythm.