Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings which include emotional lows (depression) and highs (hypomania).
When you’re depressed, you can lose interest or pleasure in most activities or feel sad or hopeless.
However, if you mood goes in the other direction, you can feel full of energy and euphoric. Mood shifts can occur as often as several times a week or only a few times a year.
It’s still unknown what causes bipolar disorder, but some factors can be involved, like:
Biological differences – People with bipolar disorder have physical changes in their brains.
Neurotransmitters – An imbalance in neurotransmitters, which are natural chemicals in brain, seems to play an important role in bipolar disorder and other mood disorders.
Inherited traits – This disorder is usually more common in people who have a first-degree relative, like parent or sibling, with the same condition.
A person must experience at least one manic episode in order to qualify for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Manic episodes must last at least one week and include racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep, tangential speech, impulsivity and poor judgment, elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, pressured speech, grandiose beliefs, and increased goal-directed activity.
Symptoms of the manic episode include irritability and outbursts of anger and rage, as opposed to the excessively, expansive elevated mood seen in adults. On the other hand, the adolescent are more likely to exhibit mixed episodes with rapid changes in mood and depression.
Even though, there are differences in the symptoms in adults compared to children and teens, many teens and children who are diagnosed with some type of bipolar disorder continue to have those symptoms as adults. Women compared to symptoms in men, have more anxiety and depression and a rapid cycling pattern.
A psychiatrist is the best person for treating bipolar and related disorders. However, you may also have a treatment team which includes psychiatric nurse, social worker and psychologist.
Treatment can include the following, but it depends on your needs:
Initial treatment – Usually you have to start taking medications in order to balance your moods immediately, and once the symptoms are under control, you doctor will discuss with you about the best long-term treatment.
Continued treatment – Bipolar disorder requires a lifelong treatment, and this includes periods when you feel better. Maintenance treatment is required to manage this condition on a long-term basis or otherwise minor mood changes may turn into full-blown depression or mania.
Day treatment programs – These programs give the counseling and support you need when your symptoms are under control.
Substance abuse treatment – It can be very hard to manage bipolar disorder if you have problems with drugs or alcohol. In that case you will need substance abuse treatment.
Hospitalization – This may be required if you are behaving dangerously, you become detached from reality or you feel suicidal. Treatment in a hospital can keep you safe and calm and stabilize your mood.
There is a number of medications which are used to treat bipolar disorder. The doses and types of medications prescribed are based on your particular symptoms. Medications may include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, antidepressant-antipsychotic, and anti-anxiety medications.
Many medications for bipolar disorder can have side effects and can be associated with the birth defects. Talk to you doctor about these issues. Psychotherapy is one of the most important part of bipolar disorder treatment and it can be provided in group, family or individual settings. There are several types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) and others.
There are far more ways about the prevention of symptoms compared to the attempts to decrease the development of the full-blown disease altogether. For example, when a child is provided with family focused therapy, he or she is less likely to develop the full-blown bipolar disorder as adult.