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Treating Bipolar Disorder

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Periods of extreme good mood or extreme sad mood/depression accompanied by high or low feel, all these can happen within a few minutes thereby causing an emotional upheaval in a person. These extreme mood swings are related to a psychiatric illness called bipolar disorder. Also known as maniac depressive disorder, bipolar affective disorder or maniac depression, bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that can be managed with appropriate treatment. People with bipolar disorder experience a change in their energy levels and activities along with severe mood swings. This disorder is aptly named bipolar disorder because the mood of a person varies between two opposite poles of euphoria and depression.

The highly elevated mood episodes are known as mania or extremely sad moods are called depression. A patient suffering from bipolar disorder might experience mania, depression or a mixed feeling of both. A mild episode of elevated mood is known as hypomania. Normal mood persists in between episodes of mania and depression.

The extreme variation in mood, energy levels and activities can interfere with the day to day activities of a person and can at times get a little dangerous. This disorder is not very easy to diagnose in the initial stages and a person suffering from the symptoms for years together might not notice it and might not realize the seriousness of the condition. The initial symptoms are in line with symptoms of ordinary mood disorders. Bipolar disorder usually sets in during the late teens or early adulthood.

Types of bipolar disorder

Bipolar I disorder: In this type of disorder, the patient has at least one episode of mania or mixed mood and often gets depressed. In between mood swings, the patient might appear to have normal mood. Mood swings can come about with changing seasons.

Bipolar II disorder: In this type of disorder, the patient has at least one episode of depression and at least one episode of hypomania. Hypomania is not a severe form of mania.

Cyclothymic Disorder: This is the mildest form of bipolar disorder. The patient experiences mild gloominess/depression and somewhat elevated/happy mood. Mood swings are less severe and prevail for a short period of time. People with cyclothymic disorder might develop severe bipolar disorder with time.

Bipolar disorder non-specific: When a patient does not fit into any of the above categories, that person is classified under this category.

Few people experience rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, meaning they have at least 4 or more episodes of elevated mood and/or depression in a year.

Causes for bipolar disorder

The exact cause for bipolar disorder is not known, the below mentioned causes are thought of to be the most prevalent causes for bipolar disorder

Hereditary factor: Any relative from the patient's family might have been a victim of this disorder thus passing on the disorder.

Hormone level fluctuation: It is understood that varying hormonal levels in the body could lead to bipolar disorder. For e.g. people with altering thyroid hormone levels are prone to this disorder

Brain part: Varying size and shape of parts in the brain can also lead to bipolar disorder

Chemical imbalance in the brain: If the chemical levels in the brain are not at the optimum levels, it can result in bipolar disorder

Bipolar order triggers off in teenagers and young adults, but can affect older adults and children as well. Epilepsy or seizures can also cause bipolar disorder. Any head injury can also cause bipolar disorder

Symptoms for bipolar disorder

Symptoms vary from person to person; the symptoms can be classified as per the mood. The most prevalent symptoms include:

Symptoms during depression mood

  • Sudden changes in moods.

  • Feeling unworthy, useless, guilty

  • Sudden change in body weight and appetite (craving for food or remaining without hunger)

  • Excessive tiredness/fatigue

  • Anxiety

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering and making any decisions

  • Restlessness

  • Pain without a cause

  • Bad-temper

  • Change in sleep pattern

  • Sudden loss of interest in all activities of life

  • Suicidal tendency

Symptoms during mania/happy mood

  • Feeling very happy, elated and in a great mood

  • Euphoria

  • An urge to win and perform well to achieve predetermined goals

  • Hurried speech

  • Can be easily distracted

  • Battling thoughts

  • Sudden change in body weight and appetite (craving for food or remaining without hunger)

  • Excessive spending

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering and in making any decisions

  • High energy levels thus leading to high levels of physical activity

  • Restlessness

  • Highly optimistic

  • Irritable mood

  • Change in sleep pattern

  • Suicidal tendency

Diagnosis of bipolar disorder

Many people experiencing this disorder are not even aware that are undergoing such a problem. People generally speak of their depression stints and leave out the over elated/mania stints, this makes it difficult for the physician to diagnose the disorder.

  • Conduct a physical examination

  • Ask about the person's family history and check out for any previous cases of mental illness in the family

  • Blood tests and brain scan might be ordered to rule out conditions like brain tumor, stroke, etc

  • The person will be referred to a psychiatrist who in turn will examine the patient and talk to the patient's relatives to enquire about the patient's general behavior.

Treatment for bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder varies from person to person and so the treatment offered is also based on the current condition of the patient.

Medications: Medications can help control extreme mood swings.


Psychotherapy/talk therapy: This kind of therapy enables the patient to talk about his/her condition to the health professional. Talk therapy sessions could be anyone or a combination of the below mentioned

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches to transform the negative and harmful thoughts in a person

  • Psycho education is educational support by teaching people about the disorder and what they can expect of it

  • Family therapy educates the family members to help the patient in recognizing and tackling the disorder and episodes

  • Interpersonal and social behavior therapy educates patients on how to behave with other people and in the society

Electroconvulsive therapy: This therapy is useful for people in whom medications and talk therapy does not work. Electroconvulsive therapy is nothing but shock therapy

Bipolar disorder can not be prevented but identifying the disorder at early stages and getting it treated through a trained medical professional can help in tackling the disorder in a better manner.

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