Bipolar Disorder: What You Should Know

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Did you know that over 45 million people globally today have bipolar disorder?  Bipolar disorder is an illness that affects human mental health and can result in suicide.

Now, although a large number of people have bipolar conditions, only a few have information and knowledge about the disease. Moreover, some of the people with the illness are not even aware that they have the disorder.

The following is everything you need to know about the condition, including the bipolar symptoms, the types of bipolar disorder, tests, treatment, and medication. But first, let’s look at what bipolar disorder means.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

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Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental disease that results in extreme shifts in moods, energy, concentration, and the ability to do the usual daily routine. One experiences major emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression).

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. However, experts associate genetics, environmental factors, and altered brain structure, to mention a few, as some of the causes of the illness.

Often, the disorder victims experience bipolar symptoms in their late teenage years and early adulthood. Most diagnoses are, however, made at the age of 25 years. It is not easy to detect bipolar disorder among children unless in severe cases.

If untreated, bipolar disorder can result in the death of its victims through suicide. It is, therefore, essential that you are aware of the various signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder. This way, you can take the necessary measures if you or the people around you experience these symptoms.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

People who suffer from bipolar disorder experience different episodes, including mania, hypomania, depression, and bipolar psychosis, to mention a few. Let’s dive into some of the bipolar symptoms present during these episodes.

a)   Mania

Mania refers to an episode where one feels emotionally high, elated, and irritable. During the manic episode, you may;

•    Have impaired judgment

•    Lack sleep or sleep very little

•    Talk a lot and so fast

•    Have over the top self-confidence and self-esteem

•    Indulge is substance abuse

•    Have increased desire for sex. One may indulge in sexual activities with people they typically would not, including strangers

•    Be hyperactive

•    Become distracted easily

•    Be euphoric

•    Become aggressively sociable

b)  Hypomania

Hypomania is similar to the mania bipolar episode, though it is not as intense. It affects one’s thoughts, moods, and behavior. During the hypomania episode, one may experience the following symptoms;

•    Reduced sleep

•    Easily irritable

•    Spending recklessly

•    Jumping from one subject to another while speaking. The subject may even be unrelated to the previous one

•    Aggression and hostility

•    Talking so fast that your audience has a difficult time following what you are saying

•    Grandiose thinking

c)   Depression

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One may experience symptoms such as;

•    A deep feeling of hopelessness

•    Immense sadness

•    Weight loss or gain

•    Difficulties in making decisions

•    Eating a lot or reduced appetite

•    A misplaced sense of guilt

•    Fatigue

•    Anxiety

•    Insomnia or sleeping a lot

•    Loss of interest

•    One may even become suicidal

d)    Bipolar Psychosis

Bipolar psychosis is a condition whereby the victim has difficulties in differentiating fantasy and reality.  It occurs during severe episodes of mania or depression. The following symptoms are present in bipolar psychosis;

•    Hallucinations

•    Poor concentration

•    Delusions

•    Anxiety

•    Incoherent thoughts and speech


Types Of Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar symptoms differ among different patients depending on the type of disorder one is diagnosed with. There are three major categories of bipolar disorder, including, Bipolar 1, Bipolar 2, and cyclothymic disorder. Therefore, you should learn more about the various types of bipolar disorders to seek suitable medical attention and get the required care.

Bipolar 1

Bipolar 1 is characterized by one or more episodes of mania. However, these episodes should last at least seven days to pass as bipolar 1 disorder. You may therefore experience euphoria or extreme irritability, to mention a few.

A person suffering from bipolar 1 may also experience episodes of depression. Therefore, bipolar 1 entails cycles between mania and depression. However, in between these cycles, one can lead an everyday life as they experience long periods without bipolar symptoms.

If one does not receive immediate treatment for bipolar 1 disorder, they may be delusional and lose touch with reality.

Bipolar 2

People who suffer from Bipolar 2 experience at least one depression episode their entire life. The spell lasts for at least two weeks. During this period, one feels immense sadness and hopelessness, to mention a few.

One may also experience a hypomanic episode that lasts for at least four days. You may feel elated, energized, and irritable, to mention a few, during this episode.

It is worth noting that depression is more dominant for people with bipolar 2 condition.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder, also known as cyclothymia, is a bipolar condition characterized by mild depression and mania episodes.  The depression and mania episodes evident in cyclothymic disorder are not as severe as those in Bipolar 1 and bipolar 2.

An adult should experience mild depression and mania episodes for at least two years and one year for children to receive a cyclothymia diagnosis.

Bipolar Disorder Test

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Some symptoms such as weight loss or gain, loss of appetite, and insomnia do not necessarily mean that one is bipolar. This is because some bipolar symptoms are similar to those of other mental illnesses.

So how do you tell that you are bipolar?

To ascertain that one is suffering from bipolar disorder, they should seek the services of a psychiatrist or a doctor. To diagnose bipolar, the following takes place;

•    Physical Exam

There is no particular blood test or scan that physicians can employ to test whether one suffers from bipolar. However, when you visit a doctor with bipolar symptoms, they may order some lab tests. Such tests include the thyroid function test.

The thyroid function test helps determine whether your thyroid glands secrete essential hormones such as hypothyroidism which aids the brain to function correctly. Lack of this hormone could result in depression and mood changes.

The purpose of these lab tests is to rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms to bipolar disorder.

•    Bipolar Disorder Test

A psychiatrist further engages you in a test, whereby they ask you various questions about your symptoms. This helps them to understand your symptoms and make an informed diagnosis.

The doctor, therefore, will ask questions like how often you experience symptoms and how long they last. They may also ponder your family history to gauge whether there are cases of bipolar disorder in your family tree, as it is hereditary.

Some doctors even demand to speak to some of your relatives to understand your symptoms better. It would help if you gave accurate feedback to guarantee precise diagnosis.

Today, thanks to advancements in technology, one can take a bipolar disorder test online and connect to various psychiatrists who offer online medical services.

•    Diagnosis

Once you complete your physical exam and the bipolar test, the doctor compares your results and makes a final diagnosis before embarking on treatment. Depending on the results, the doctor can tell whether you suffer from Bipolar 1, bipolar 2, or cyclothymia.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment And Medication

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So what happens when you test positive for bipolar disorder? Although the disease is a lifetime illness, there are various methods of treatment to manage it. Here are some ways of bipolar disorder treatment;

1.   Psychotherapy

An effective means of treating bipolar disorder is through talk therapy. By constantly sharing your thoughts, moods, and emotions with an expert, you are guided about various coping strategies.

For instance, a psychiatrist may help you identify some early signs of a significant bipolar disorder episode before it occurs. They may further assist you in repairing some broken relationships with the people around you resulting from extreme undiagnosed bipolar symptoms.  Additionally, a therapist can help you manage stress.

Some various types of psychotherapy for bipolar patients include:

•    Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

This type of psychotherapy tries to change the pattern of thinking for a person with bipolar disorder. Some cognitive-behavioral interventions include anger management, sleep hygiene, cognitive reconstructing, and mindfulness.

•    Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT)

This is the type of psychotherapy that stresses keeping records of daily activities. In addition, it entails following a routine for mood management.

•    Family-Focused Therapy (FFT)

In family-focused treatment, therapists involve bipolar disorder patients and their family members, such as spouses, parents, or cousins. This type of therapy aims to educate the family about the bipolar condition. It also teaches them about how to offer support and communicate with the person with bipolar disorder.

•    Group Psycho-Education

For group psycho-education, people diagnosed with the disorder come together and share their experiences. A therapist may be present as a facilitator, and they can also educate the members about the bipolar condition. Group psycho-education aims to offer one another support and interact with people experiencing a similar situation.

•    Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DTB)

This type of psychotherapy teaches people with bipolar to accept their condition, deal with stress, regulate their emotions, and live in the moment. It involves both individual and group therapy.

2.   In-patient Treatment

Some extreme bipolar episodes pose a danger to the victim or the people around them, such as suicide threats, therefore, require close medical attention. For this reason, a doctor may recommend that you be admitted to a health facility to receive much-needed assistance.

3.   Medication    

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Along with other bipolar treatment methods, doctors prescribe various types of medicine to help manage the illness. Such medications include mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and atypical antipsychotics. The goal of these medications is the remission of bipolar symptoms.

Mood stabilizers are essential for managing mania and hypomania episodes. Examples of mood stabilizers include lithium, lamotrigine, valproic acid, and carbamazepine, to mention a few.

Doctors will recommend antipsychotics when mania ad hypomania episodes persist, despite using mood stabilizers. Some of the antipsychotics include ziprasidone, asenapine, lurasidone, olanzapine, and aripiprazole.

Antidepressants are given to manage depression episodes. They are prescribed along with mood stabilizers as they can trigger a manic episode. Examples of antidepressants used are Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, and Lexapro.

It is worth noting that not all medication works well with all bipolar patients. Therefore, doctors may indulge in a trial and error whereby they keep changing your prescription until they find the right fit for you.

Final Thoughts

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Physical, social, mental, and emotional health plays an essential role in general human wellbeing. However, in the world we live in today, there is a surge of people suffering from mental illnesses especially bipolar disorder, compromising one’s wellbeing.

So, to take care of yourself if you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder or offer support to the people around you with the condition, knowledge about the illness is vital. Therefore, familiarize yourself with these bipolar symptoms, the various types of bipolar, the bipolar disorder test, treatment, and medication.

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