Bipolar Disorder Guide!
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Overview and Facts:
We all have our ups and downs, but with bipolar disorder, these peaks and valleys are more severe. The symptoms of bipolar disorder can hurt your job and school performance, damage your relationships, and disrupt your daily life. And although it’s treatable, many people don’t recognize the warning signs and get the help they need.
Since bipolar disorder tends to worsen without treatment, it’s important to learn what the symptoms look like. Recognizing the problem is the first step to getting better.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) causes serious shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior, from the highs of mania on one extreme, to the lows of depression on the other. More than just a fleeting good or bad mood, the cycles of bipolar disorder last for days, weeks, or months.
And unlike ordinary mood swings, the mood changes of bipolar disorder are so intense that they interfere with your ability to function.
- During a manic episode, a person might impulsively quit a job, charge up huge amounts on credit cards, or feel rested after sleeping two hours.
- During a depressive episode, the same person might be too tired to get out of bed, and full of self-loathing and hopelessness over being unemployed and in debt.
Bipolar Children and Teens:
Although bipolar disorder is more common in older teenagers and young adults, it can affect children as young as 6. Some experts believe the condition is rare and over-diagnosed; others disagree.
Bipolar and Women:
In general, women tend to experience more periods of depression than men, research shows. Women are also at higher risk for rapid cycling, which means having four or more mood episodes in one year.
ADHD or Bipolar?
Bipolar disorder and ADHD are being diagnosed more often in American children and teens. There are some similarities in symptoms, so how can a doctor know for sure if the child has bipolar disorder or ADHD?
The causes of bipolar disorder aren’t completely understood, but it often appears to be hereditary. The first manic or depressive episode of bipolar disorder usually occurs in the teenage years or early adulthood.
The symptoms can be subtle and confusing; many people with bipolar disorder are overlooked or misdiagnosed, resulting in unnecessary suffering. But with proper treatment and support, you can lead a rich and fulfilling life.
Myths and facts about bipolar disorder:
- Myth: People with bipolar disorder can’t get better or lead a normal life.
- Fact: Many people with bipolar disorder have successful careers, happy family lives, and satisfying relationships.
Living with bipolar disorder is challenging, but with treatment, healthy coping skills, and a solid support system, you can live fully while managing your symptoms.
- Myth: People with bipolar disorder swing back and forth between mania and depression.
- Fact: Some people alternate between extreme episodes of mania and depression, but most are depressed more often than they are manic. Mania may also be so mild that it goes unrecognized. People with bipolar disorder can also go for long stretches without symptoms.
- Myth: Bipolar disorder only affects mood.
- Fact: Bipolar disorder also affects your energy level, judgment, memory, concentration, appetite, sleep patterns, sex drive, and self-esteem. Additionally, bipolar disorder has been linked to anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, migraines, and high blood pressure.
- Myth: Aside from taking medication, there is nothing you can do to control bipolar disorder.
- Fact: While medication is the foundation of bipolar disorder treatment, therapy and self-help strategies also play important roles.
- You can help control your symptoms by exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, eating right, monitoring your moods, keeping stress to a minimum, and surrounding yourself with supportive people.
Signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder:
mood episodes Bipolar disorder can look very different in different people. The symptoms vary widely in their pattern, severity, and frequency. Some people are more prone to either mania or depression, while others alternate equally between the two types of episodes. Some have frequent mood disruptions, while others experience only a few over a lifetime.
There are four types of mood episodes in bipolar disorder:
- and mixed episodes.
Each type of bipolar disorder mood episode has a unique set of symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of mania:
In the manic phase of bipolar disorder, feelings of heightened energy, creativity, and euphoria are common. People experiencing a manic episode often talk a mile a minute, sleep very little, and are hyperactive. They may also feel like they’re all-powerful, invincible, or destined for greatness.
But while mania feels good at first, it has a tendency to spiral out of control.
People often behave recklessly during a manic episode:
- Gambling away savings.
- Engaging in inappropriate sexual activity.
- Or making foolish business investments.
They may also become angry, irritable, and aggressive, picking fights, lashing out when others don't go along with their plans, and blaming anyone who criticizes their behavior. Some people even become delusional or start hearing voices.
Common signs and symptoms of mania include:
- Feeling unusually high and optimistic OR extremely irritable.
- Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs about one's abilities or powers.
- Sleeping very little, but feeling extremely energetic.
- Talking so rapidly that others can't keep up.
- Racing thoughts; jumping quickly from one idea to the next.
- Highly distractible, unable to concentrate.
- Impaired judgment and impulsiveness.
- Acting recklessly without thinking about the consequences.
- Delusions and hallucinations (in severe cases).
Signs and symptoms of bipolar depression:
Despite many similarities, certain symptoms are more common in bipolar depression than in regular depression.
bipolar depression is more likely to involve irritability, guilt, unpredictable mood swings, and feelings of restlessness:
- People with bipolar depression also tend to move and speak slowly, sleep a lot, and gain weight.
- In addition, they are more likely to develop psychotic depression a condition in which they've lost contact with reality, and to experience major disability in work and social functioning.
Common symptoms of bipolar depression include:
- Feeling hopeless, sad, or empty.
- Inability to experience pleasure.
- Fatigue or loss of energy.
- Physical and mental sluggishness.
- Appetite or weight changes.
- Sleep problems.
- Concentration and memory problems.
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
Signs and symptoms of a mixed episode:
A mixed episode of bipolar disorder features symptoms of both mania or hypomania and depression.
Common signs of a mixed episode include depression combined with agitation, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, distractibility, and racing thoughts.
This combination of high energy and low mood makes for a particularly high risk of suicide.
The different faces of bipolar disorder:
Bipolar I Disorder (mania or a mixed episode):
This is the classic manic-depressive form of the illness, characterized by at least one manic episode or mixed episode. Usually, but not always, Bipolar I Disorder also involves at least one episode of depression.
Bipolar II Disorder (hypomania and depression):
In Bipolar II disorder, the person doesn't experience full-blown manic episodes. Instead, the illness involves episodes of hypomania and severe depression.
Cyclothymia (hypomania and mild depression):
Cyclothymia is a milder form of bipolar disorder that consists of cyclical mood swings. However, the symptoms are less severe than full-blown mania or depression.
Basics of bipolar disorder treatment & Care:
Bipolar disorder requires long-term treatment:
Since bipolar disorder is a chronic, relapsing illness, it's important to continue treatment even when you're feeling better. Most people with bipolar disorder need medication to prevent new episodes and stay symptom-free.
There is more to treatment than medication:
Medication alone is usually not enough to fully control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. The most effective treatment strategy for bipolar disorder involves a combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and social support.
It's best to work with an experienced psychiatrist:
Bipolar disorder is a complex condition. Diagnosis can be tricky and treatment is often difficult. For safety reasons, medication should be closely monitored. A psychiatrist who is skilled in bipolar disorder treatment can help you navigate these twists and turns.
Self-help for bipolar disorder:
- Learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder.
- The more you know, the better you'll be at assisting your own recovery.
- Keep stress in check. Avoid high-stress situations, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.
It's important to have people you can turn to for help and encouragement. Try joining a support group or talking to a trusted friend. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it won't mean you're a burden to others. In fact, most friends will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your relationship.
Make healthy choices:
Healthy sleeping, eating, and exercising habits can help stabilize your moods. Keeping a regular sleep schedule is particularly important.
Monitor your moods:
Keep track of your symptoms and watch for signs that your moods are swinging out of control so you can stop the problem before it starts.
Bipolar disorder and suicide:
The warning signs of suicide include:
- Talking about death, self-harm, or suicide.
- Feeling hopeless or helpless.
- Feeling worthless or like a burden to others.
- Acting recklessly, as if one has a death wish.
- Putting affairs in order or saying goodbye.
- Seeking out weapons or pills that could be used to commit suicide.
Bipolar disorder causes and triggers:
Bipolar disorder has no single cause. It appears that certain people are genetically predisposed to bipolar disorder, yet not everyone with an inherited vulnerability develops the illness, indicating that genes are not the only cause. Some brain imaging studies show physical changes in the brains of people with bipolar disorder. Other research points to neurotransmitter imbalances, abnormal thyroid function, circadian rhythm disturbances, and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
External environmental and psychological factors are also believed to be involved in the development of bipolar disorder. These external factors are called triggers. Triggers can set off new episodes of mania or depression or make existing symptoms worse. However, many bipolar disorder episodes occur without an obvious trigger.
Stressful life events can trigger bipolar disorder in someone with a genetic vulnerability. These events tend to involve drastic or sudden changes either . Good or bad, such as getting married, going away to college, losing a loved one, getting fired, or moving.
While substance abuse doesn't cause bipolar disorder, it can bring on an episode and worsen the course of the disease. Drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamines can trigger mania, while alcohol and tranquilizers can trigger depression.
Certain medications, most notably antidepressant drugs, can trigger mania. Other drugs that can cause mania include over-the-counter cold medicine, appetite suppressants, caffeine, corticosteroids, and thyroid medication.
Episodes of mania and depression often follow a seasonal pattern. Manic episodes are more common during the summer, and depressive episodes more common during the fall, winter, and spring.
Loss of sleep, even as little as skipping a few hours of rest, can trigger an episode of mania.
Before you begin treating bipolar disorder with natural dietary supplements or an alternative remedy, it's important to do your homework and know what you're putting into your body. Some alternative remedies or dietary supplements can cause an herb, drug interaction, which can be quite serious.
Bipolar Disorder Supplements:
With the rise in healthcare costs, you may be considering alternative medicine and dietary supplements to treat bipolar disorder. Before you take either, it's important to do your homework and know what you're putting into your body. In addition, always discuss any alternative remedy or dietary supplement with your doctor.
Bipolar Diet: Foods to Avoid
You know how important it is to self-manage mood swings with bipolar medications and healthy lifestyle habits. But did you also know that certain foods and dietary supplements may play a role in helping - or hindering - the condition?
Exercise & Lifestyle:
Studies show that regular exercise can help improve mood whether or not you have bipolar disorder. And, a good meal plan can help you feel better and give you the nutrients you need.
Bipolar Mood Swings:
The mood swings of bipolar disorder can be profoundly destructive. Depression can make you isolate yourself from friends and loved ones; and in manic periods, you be may be reckless and volatile.
Bipolar and Sleep Problems:
Sleep with bipolar disorder can be difficult. Learn ways to get more rest when you have bipolar disorder.
Talking to Family and Friends:
Your relationships with friends and family are crucial to staying healthy with bipolar disorder. You need to keep the lines of communication open.
Bipolar, Dating, and Marriage:
Navigating any romantic relationship -- whether it's dating or marriage -- can be a tricky endeavor. Add bipolar disorder, with its roller-coaster ride of emotions into the mix, and relationships become even more challenging.
Bipolar Disorder at Work: Job Performance Tips:
It's not surprising that work can bring special challenges for people with bipolar disorder. The stress and unpredictable challenges in the workplace can take a big toll.
Resources and references:
General information about bipolar disorder, (National Institute of Mental Health), (Internet Mental Health), (PsychGuides), (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance).