Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness is a brain disorder characterized by episodes of emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression) which are different from the normal ups and downs that people go through. Unusual intense emotional states occur in distinct periods called “mood episodes”. Each mood episode represents a drastic change from a person’s usual mood and behaviour.
An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes a mood episode includes symptoms of both manic and depression. This is called a mixed state. People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode. Extreme changes in energy, activity, sleep and behaviour go along with these changes in mood.
Signs and Symptoms
- Manic Episode
- Feeling “high”or an overly happy or outgoing mood
- High energy level, engaging in increasing activities
- Needing little sleep and yet is still very energetic
- Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
- Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities (grandiosity)
- Behaving impulsively like going on a spending spree or making huge financial commitments irrationally
- Being easily distracted
- Being overly restless
- Engaging in reckless, high-risk behaviours
2. Depressive Episode
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex
- Feeling tired or “slowed down”
- Having problems concentrating, remembering and making decisions
- Being restless or irritable
- Changing eating, sleeping or other habits
- Thinking of death or suicide
In extreme moods of mania or depression, symptoms may become psychotic with delusions, totally out of contact with reality. It requires admission for safety reason.
Mania in Bipolar Disorder can also present in a milder form called Hypomania. During a hypomanic episode, the affected person feel very good, is highly productive and functions well. You may not feel that anything is wrong but family and friends may recognize the mood swings as possible Bipolar disorder. Without proper treatment, people with hypomania may develop severe mania or depression.
Cause for Bipolar Disorder
- Biological Differences – People with Bipolar disorder appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of theses changes is still uncertain but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
- Neurotransmitter – An imbalance in naturally occurring brain chemicals called neurotransmitters seems to play a significant role in Bipolar disorder and other mood disorders.
- Inherited Traits – Bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent with the condition. However, most children with a family history of Bipolar disorder will not develop the illness. Researches are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing Bipolar disorder.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
- Mood Stabilizers – To control manic or hypomanic episodes and maintain a stable mood. There are many types of medications for this.
- Anti-Depressants – During depression stage, it can trigger a mania and is usually taken together with mood stabilizers.
- Anti-psychotics – To control severe mania or depression if treatment with above is not able to control psychotic symptoms (delusions, extreme disconnect with reality).
- Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) – It is sometimes used to control severe psychotics symptoms during severe mania or depression if symptoms cannot be controlled with medication.
Reference : National Institute of Mental Health, US