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Key Facts on Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a condition that can be medically treated and it presents with extreme changes in behavior, energy, though, and mood. It is also referred to as manic-depressive disorder because of the symptoms of an affected person alternate between mania and depression. Mood changes can be short or long. They can go for hours, days, weeks or even months. Contrary to what is seen among people with clinical depressions (the lows), people suffering from bipolar disorder narrates about high and lows experiences. The extreme shifts in energy, thought, mood and functioning seen in bipolar disorders are caused by the abnormalities within the brain biochemistry as well as the activity and structure of certain brain circuits.

key facts on bipolar disorderThe disease is said to be bipolar I, bipolar II or cyclothymic. To diagnose bipolar I, one has to experience at least an episode of severe mania. Bipolar II disorder, on the other hand, is diagnosed when one experience an episode of a hypomanic episode that does not meet the criteria for a full manic episode. For the cyclothymic disorder, it the milder aspect of the illness because its diagnosis is based on experiences that occur over the course of at least two years for adults and one year for children and adolescents. These experiences are characterized by numerous periods that have hypomanic and depressive symptoms. Nevertheless, these episodes are not severe enough to be classified as major manic or depressive episodes.

Additionally, bipolar disorders can either be non-rapid cycling or rapid cycling. Rapid cycling disorder occurs when four or more episodes of illness are experienced within a 12-month period. The rapid cycling is resistant to treatment in comparison to the non-rapid cycling bipolar disorder.

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What are the symptoms of a manic bipolar disorder?

Mania symptoms are an increased mood, self-confidence and exaggerated optimism. One also experiences a decreased need for sleep and one can sleep for less than three hours without fatigue. An inflated sense of self-importance, grandiose delusions, aggressive behavior and excessive irritability are also part of the symptoms. An increased mental and physical activity coupled with impulsiveness and flight of ideas and racing speech is seen in manic bipolar disorder. When one is suffering from manic bipolar disorders, they have poor judgments, find it hard to concentrate and they are easily distracted. At times they show reckless behaviors like erratic driving, rash business decisions, spending sprees and sexual indiscretions without concern for consequences. Severe cases of manic bipolar disorder present with auditory hallucination where one hears voices and delusions where one gets strong convictions on things that are not true.

What are the symptoms of depressive bipolar disorder?

The depressive episodes are met if the symptoms explained below occurs for five or more times daily in a span of two weeks. Additionally, if these symptoms interfere with family activities or work they are considered as major depressive episodes. These symptoms are an unexplained crying spells and prolonged sadness. A significant change in sleep patterns and appetite is also an indicator of depressive episodes. Indifference, pessimism, anger, anxiety, agitation, worry and irritability are also symptoms to watch. A feeling of worthlessness, guilt, loss of energy and persistent tiredness indicates depressive episodes. Other symptoms experienced when one has depressive episodes are indecisiveness, inability to concentrate, social withdraw, inability to enjoy former interests, unexplained pains and aches and recurring thoughts of suicide and death.

Whom does bipolar disorder affect?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 2.5 million people are affected by bipolar disorder annually. Still, the organization outlines that at least 90% of bipolar disorders begin before twenty years but it can also start during early childhood or even at the late 40’s and 50’s.  Gender wise, men and women are affected equally and it cuts across all social classes, ethnic groups, races and ages. Bipolar disorder has a heritable component because more than two-thirds people who are affected by the disease have at least a close relative with the disease or a unipolar major depression.

Bipolar disorder and women

According to a journal in clinical psychiatry, the disease is equally common among men and women. However, the rapid cycling experience is observed three times more in women in comparison to men. Additionally, the journal indicates that women who are affected by bipolar disorder exhibit more mixed episodes and depressive episodes in comparison to men.

Bipolar disorder among children and adolescents

The children who have parents with bipolar disorder are likely to be affected by the disease. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health explains that if one parent has bipolar disorder, the child risk of getting the disease is between 15-30%.  Consequently, when both parents are affected by bipolar disorder, the chances of the children getting the disease increases to between 50-75%.  For the adolescent, if they have major depression, 20% of them develop bipolar disorder within the five years the depression begins.  According to a research by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there are about 3.4 million children and adolescents affected by depression. Up to one-third of these children and adolescents, may be experiencing an early onset of bipolar disorder.  In comparison to adults, manic children and adolescents are more irritable and they are prone to destructive outbursts instead of being euphoric or elated. At the same time, when the adolescents and children are depressed, they present with many physical complaints like tiredness, stomachaches or headaches.  This population also may perform poorly in schools, be irritable, social isolate themselves and have extreme sensitivity to failure and rejection.

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Bipolar disorder and suicide.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder reduces a person’s expected lifespan by 9.2 years. Additionally, at least one person among five patients suffering from bipolar disorder complete suicide.

So, which is the way of treating bipolar disorder?

Pharmacological treatment of bipolar disorder

In treating bipolar disorder, the first line of medication used is a mood stabilizer. Mostly lithium and various anticonvulsants are the first choices because they effectively treat manic symptoms and they lower the severity and frequency of depressive and manic episodes. Other drugs prescribed are antipsychotics to deal with psychosis symptoms and anti-anxiety drugs to manage sleep problems.  Majority of patients with bipolar disorder have to take more than one drugs and these medications have complex interactions. These interactions result in significant side effects, especially when not effectively monitored by an experienced health professional.

Psychotherapeutic treatments of bipolar disorder

One of the psychotherapeutic approaches used to manage bipolar disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy. It is combined together with the medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy assist adolescents and children understand the triggers to the episodes. It also helps them understand the way their thoughts affect their feeling and learn the way to manage and control them. Family therapy is used to engage parents and family members to help them keep track of symptoms and manage the stress levels within home settings that can trigger the episodes.


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