Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric illness that causes abrupt and unusual shifts in mood and energy. It is characterised by “mood swings” – periods of elevated or irritable moods, alternating with periods of depression. Bipolar disorder can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, distress while doing everyday tasks, and even suicide. The symptoms are severe and can be very different from the normal ups and downs of daily life. Bipolar disorder affects 1% of the population worldwide. It affects men and women equally, usually starting between the ages of 15-25. The exact cause is unknown, except that it seems to be genetic.
Types of bipolar disorder
- Type I: Formerly known as manic depression. It is characterized by at least one full manic episode with periods of major depression.
- Type II: Characterised by periods of hypomania, which is elevated energy and impulsiveness but never full mania. These periods are alternated with episodes of depression.
- Cyclothymia: A mild form of bipolar disorder with less severe mood swings and alternating hypomania and mild depression.
- BP-NOS (not otherwise specified): This type does not meet the criteria of either I, II, or cyclothymia. The symptoms do not last long enough or are too few to diagnose, but the behavior is clearly out of the ordinary range.
Although there is no clear cause for episodes, there are some things that may trigger them if you already have the genetics for bipolar disorder.
- life changes – childbirth, moving to college, etc.
- drug /substance abuse
These symptoms are associated with Type I and are less intense with the other types of bipolar disorder.
- Manic phase – lasts days to months; irritation; very high self esteem; elevated mood; reckless behavior; easily distracted
- Depressed phase – low mood; difficulty concentrating; extreme loss or gain of weight; fatigue; thoughts of death; withdrawal
- Mood stabilizers
- Anti-seizure drugs
- Antipsychotic drugs
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – uses electrical current to cause a brief seizure of the central nervous system while the patient is under anesthesia; most effective for depression episodes
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) – used after ECT; uses high frequency magnetic pulses that target affected areas of the brain
- Hospital stay
However, the most effective treatment remains identifying what the triggers are in order to best avoid an episode. Physicians and researchers are still trying to uncover the best way to treat bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder. PubMed Health
Bipolar Disorder in Adults. National Institute of Mental Health