The Symptoms & Causes of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder (previously known as manic depression) is a mental health condition characterized by excessive changes in one’s mood including emotional highs and lows, i.e. mania or hypomania and depression, as explained on Mayo Clinic. According to statistics, around 2.6 U.S. citizens will experience it.
In the depression phase, the individual may experience feelings of hopelessness or sadness and find no pleasure or interest in most activities. On the other hand, during mania or hypomania, one becomes euphoric, too energetic, and irritable. These mood changes can have a negative impact on one’s sleep, behavior, thinking, and judgment. The episodes, as noted on Mayo Clinic, may occur on a rarer basis or several times per year. Though this is a lifelong condition, management of the mood swings and the other symptoms is doable with a proper treatment plan, which is usually a combination of meds and psychotherapy.
What Are the Causes of Bipolar Disorder?
As noted by Steve Bressert from Psych Central, the main cause of this disorder is not yet known. What is known by now is that environmental, genetic, and neurochemical factors interact at numerous levels and significantly contribute to the onset and progression of the condition. Even though this disorder can happen at any age, it mostly starts in the 20s.
Now, let us take a closer look at the known contributing factors.
- Substance abuse can trigger symptoms or worsen an already diagnosed bipolar condition (with or without genetic predisposition)
- Some life events may lead to a mood episode in those that are genetically predisposed to bipolar disorder
- The increase in younger individuals being diagnosed with bipolar disorder may be caused by social and environmental factors
- The disorder happens in some part of the brain and it is caused by neurotransmitter dysfunction
- It may remain dormant and then activate on its own or by some outside factors like stress and social situations
- Half of bipolar disorder sufferers have someone in their family with a mood disorder such as depression
- A child has a 10 to 15 percent higher risk of bipolar disorder if one of their parents has it (the risk elevates to 40 percent if both parents have it)
- In identical twins, there is 40 to 70 percent in the other twin to have this disorder in case one of them has it
Excessive stress is yet another risk factor for this mental health problem and those who have gone through a traumatic event are at a higher risk, according to Psy Com. Such events include neglect and abuse, death of a parent or sibling, as well as losing a job, moving elsewhere, etc.
Another contributing risk factor that is worth mention is gender. Though this disorder can occur in both men and women, in women, the risk of mood episodes and rapid cycling is triple and they are also prone to the depression phase more than men are, as explained on Psy Com.
There Is more than One Type of Bipolar Disorder
- Bipolar I disorder- the individual has experienced at least one manic episode, preceded or followed by hypomanic or depressive episodes
- Bipolar II disorder- at least one major episode of depression and at least one hypomania episode, but, the individual has never experienced a manic one
- Cyclothymic disorder- at least 2 years (or 1 in children and teenagers) of several hypomania and depression episodes
- Other types- according to Mayo Clinic, this refers to bipolar or other health issues triggered by alcohol or drugs or some conditions like stroke, multiple sclerosis, or Cushing’s
The Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
As seen on Mayo Clinic, although mania and hypomania are two different episodes, they are characterized by the same signs. Mania is considered more severe than hypomania and it can even lead to psychosis that requires hospitalization. Here are the major symptoms of these two episodes:
- Abnormal jumpiness and high level activity and energy
- Excessive sense of well being and self-confidence also known as euphoria
- Lowered need for sleep
- Poor decision-making
According to Medical News Today, these are the most common symptoms that occur in bipolar disorder sufferers during the depressive phase:
- Severe sadness
- Anxiety about trivial matters
- Feeling of guilt
- Gain or loss of weight
- Excessive fatigue
- Decrease in attention and poor memory
- Irritation caused by tight clothes, smells, noises, etc.
- Inability to face going to school or work
- Not enjoying activities or interests that are usually pleasurable
- Eating much more or much less
- State of hopelessness
What about Prevention and Treatment?
As emphasized on Mayo Clinic, there is no clear way to avert this disorder; however, adequate and early treatment can minimize the risk of the mental health problem becoming worse. Patients who have already been diagnosed with bipolar should know that there are beneficial strategies that can prevent symptoms from turning into manic or depressive episodes. Here are the major ones:
- Follow your therapy- often times, one may want to stop treatment, but they should not. Any kind of ceasing of the meds or lowering the dosage without consulting your doctor may result in the symptoms returning or aggravating.
- Do not take drugs or drink alcohol- bipolar individuals who indulge into alcohol or recreational drugs have a higher chance of more serious and more frequent episodes.
- Notice the warning symptoms- without doubt, as pointed out on Mayo Clinic, recognizing the early symptoms is crucial in preventing the condition from aggravating, as well as being aware of the main triggers for your episodes and avoid them as much as possible. Make sure your friends and family members also know about your condition and can recognize the warning signs of your condition.
When it comes to treatment, as noted on Medical News Today, the goal is to decrease the manic and depressive episodes as much as possible and also to minimize the severity of the signs in order for the individual to lead a normal and productive life. Unfortunately, when this condition is left untreated, the depression and mania phases can last for up to a year (treatment allows for improvement within 4 months). Although an individual may continue experiencing the episodes although he/she is following a therapy, the symptoms will significantly decrease in gravity and the episodes will be less common.