Bipolar disorder is a condition that causes your mood to shift dramatically and suddenly between extreme emotional highs and lows. The highs are referred to as mania or hypomania, while the lows resemble intense depression. These shifts can occur as often as several times a week, but they may only happen as few as a couple of times a year.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
People who are affected by bipolar disorder will experience both manic or hypomanic (less severe than manic) episodes as well as major depressive episodes, usually in close conjunction with each other. Manic and hypomanic episodes are characterized by an abnormally elevated, expansive, or irritable mood that lasts for several days.
On the other hand, a major depressive episode is characteristic of major depression, including feeling sad, empty, or hopeless. To be considered a major depressive episode, the symptoms must be severe enough to be interfering with day-to-day activities such as work, school, and relationships. They also must not be linked to some other external source, such as drug or alcohol use, the side effect of a medication, or grief.
There are many different signs and symptoms that can indicate bipolar disorder. These can include:
- being excessively anxious
- losing pleasure in most normal activities
- having mixed symptoms for both manic or hypomanic episodes while also experiencing symptoms of major depression
- general non-response to the environment
- patterns of manic. hypomanic, and major depressive episodes that change with the seasons
- experiencing psychosis and/or hallucinations.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
Although researchers aren’t exactly sure what specifically causes bipolar disorder, there are several factors that generally seem to be linked to the condition. Bipolar disorder seems to often be the result of inherited genes.
If a first-degree relative, meaning a parent or sibling, is affected by the condition, you are more likely to also be affected by the condition as well. People who are affected by bipolar disorder and other mood disorders also seem to have a chemical imbalance in the brain that contributes to their symptoms.
Treatments for Bipolar Disorder
Initial treatment for this disorder almost always includes immediately starting a medication regiment to balance the moods as soon as possible. Getting the symptoms under control is the first step to finding an effective, long-term treatment plan.
Individuals with bipolar disorder will require treatment for the rest of their life. This is important because even if you feel better and don’t seem to be affected by the symptoms of bipolar disorder for an extended period of time, skipping maintenance treatment can be extremely detrimental to managing your condition.
There are several different types of medications that can be used to treat bipolar disorder. These can include: mood stabilizers to manage manic or hypomanic episodes, antipsychotics or antidepressants (or a combination of both) to manage depression symptoms, and anti-anxiety medications to treat anxiety and improve sleep.
Psychotherapy is also an important part of treating bipolar disorder. This includes talking about your emotions with a therapist to figure out the most effective way to manage specific situations and relationships.