Bipolar Disorder

Do you feel very energetic, happy on some days and very sad and lethargic on other days? Yes, everyone goes through normal ups and downs, but Bipolar disorder is very different from that.

Bipolar disorder was earlier known as Manic depressive disorder. Its a mental disorder which can cause extreme and long term fluctuations in mood and energy levels. It can affect a person's personal and professional life significantly if not diagnosed and treated on time.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder : The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary. An individual with bipolar disorder may have manic episodes, depressive episodes, or “mixed” episodes. A mixed episode has both manic and depressive symptoms. It also causes significant problems with sleep and appetite.

Mania is characterized by :

  • Feeling very happy or irritable

  • Feeling very energetic even without any rest or sleep

  • Racing thoughts

  • Excessive desire for pleasurable things like food, drugs, sex

  • Spending money on unnecessary things

  • Feeling very powerful and capable of doing anything

Depression is characterized by :

  • Feeling very low and sad

  • Feeling tired, exhausted and slowed down

  • Difficulty in sleep, either getting up too early or sleeping too much

  • Memory loss, forgetting things

  • Not feeling interested in previously pleasurable activities.

  • Sometimes associated with suicidal thoughts

Hypomania is less severe form of mania, which usually makes a person productive and individual doesn't feel like anything is wrong with him/her, however the family or friends can easily recognize the mood swing.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder : Research suggests that there is no single cause, but a combination can contribute to Bipolar disorder.

  • Family History and Genes: Bipolar disorder often runs in family. The risk of developing this condition is greater for first-degree relatives of affected individuals (such as siblings or children).

Many people with Bipolar disorder have relatives with other mental health issues like Anxiety, Depression, Psychosis etc. These disorders may run in families in part because they share some genetic risk factors with bipolar disorder.

  • Other Factors : Research is going on regarding understanding whether the brain structure and functioning of a person suffering from any psychiatric disorder is different from a person not having any mental health issue. Substance abuse and head injury have also been associated with Bipolar disorder. Stressful life events have also been associated with triggering symptoms of Bipolar disorder.

Management of Bipolar Disorder : An effective treatment comprises of both medicines and psychotherapy.

  • Medications : Mood Stabilizers and Anti psychotics are most frequently prescribed medicines for Bipolar disorder. Treatment plans may also include medicines that target sleep and anxiety. Anti-depressants along with a mood stabilizer is prescribed for a depressive episode.

Remember, You have to take the medicines for Bipolar Disorder even if you are feeling better.

If you are about to start treatment or are already on medicines, you should :

  1. Talk to your psychiatrist in detail about the medicine, its interaction with other medicines and side-effects.

  2. Tell your Psychiatrist if you are already on some medicine for any other health issue or if you take any over the counter medicine.

  3. Inform your Psychiatrist about any side-effects immediately.

  4. Never stop the medicines without your Psychiatrist's advise.

  • Psychotherapy :

Psychotherapy or "talk therapy" is also a very important treatment modality for Bipolar Disorder. It basically aims to help a person identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors (CBT). It also provides support, education, and guidance to people with bipolar disorder and their families(Psycho-education).

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) : It basically focuses on stabilizing the circadian rhythm, which is disrupted in Bipolar disorder.

  • Other Treatment Options :

Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) , is a procedure in which small electric currents are passed through the brain under general anesthesia which helps in quick recovery of symptoms. This is used in severe forms of Bipolar disorders along with medicines.

Trans-cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), is a technique that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve the symptoms of depression.