Life involves plenty of ups and downs, and it’s normal to have some days when you feel content and others when you feel less positive. However, if you’re experiencing frequent highs and lows in mood coupled with an inability to function in daily life, you may be suffering from bipolar disorder.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Formerly known as manic depressive disorder, bipolar disorder causes debilitating shifts in mood, energy, and activity. Typically, patients shift from being very elevated and energized to feeling profound sadness and depression. These two states are known as manic and depressive periods, respectively.
Not all cases of bipolar disorder are the same. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are two principle types of bipolar disorder. Patients with bipolar I disorder commonly experience manic periods lasting a minimum of seven days followed by depressive periods that go on about two weeks. In many cases, patients with bipolar I need to be hospitalized to get well again.
With bipolar II disorder, patients also experience the pattern of depressive and manic episodes. However, they are often less severe than those suffered by bipolar I patients. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 4.4% of adults experience bipolar disorder at one point in their lives, and many of those require treatment to ease their symptoms.
Bipolar Disorder Signs and Symptoms
Patients with bipolar disorder experience signs of both mania and depression. The following bipolar symptoms can affect patients’ ability to function and enjoy daily life:
- High or elated feelings
- High energy levels or increased levels of activity
- Eating and sleeping disturbances
- Talking quickly or jumping from one topic to the next
- Exhibiting risky behaviors such as drug use or dangerous sexual practices
- Agitation and irritability
- Sadness, depression, or hopelessness
- Feelings of worry
- Concentration and memory problems
- Thoughts of suicide
Bipolar disorder is a serious condition that can have a profound effect on your life and the lives of your friends and loved ones. According to the website Bipolar Lives, an estimated 15% of patients with this condition attempt suicide at some point in their lives. If you’re experiencing one or more of the above signs of bipolar, don’t hesitate to speak to a doctor about the causes of the condition and what you can do to get healthy.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
No one knows exactly what causes certain people to develop bipolar disorder. However, medical professionals believe the condition stems from biological differences in the brain. Additionally, bipolar disorder has a genetic component. Individuals who have a first-degree relative with bipolar are more likely to develop the illness themselves.
Other risk factors include drug abuse and suffering a traumatic event, such as a divorce or death in the family.
It’s important to note that bipolar disorder can coexist with other physical and psychological illnesses, many of which affect the patient’s prognosis. These conditions include anxiety and eating disorders, ADHD, alcohol and drug addiction, and physical ailments like obesity and heart disease.
Seeking Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
If you or a loved one is suffering from bipolar disorder, you should know that help exists. Various treatments can mitigate bipolar symptoms, reducing the frequency of manic and depressive episodes and reducing their severity.
Medication is one of the most common treatments for bipolar disorder and can help reduce the highs and lows that accompany this condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the frequently prescribed treatments for bipolar disorder include antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs. Finding the right combination of drugs tends to be a process of trial and error.
Additionally, many patients benefit from psychotherapy. A therapist or psychologist who specializes in bipolar disorder can help you manage symptoms and regulate mood. Therapy can help patients mitigate the destructive effect bipolar disorder has on their lives, improving their relationships and alleviating problems at work.
Finally, lifestyle changes can help minimize the symptoms of bipolar disorder and improve quality of life. Along with getting plenty of sleep, patients should strive to eat a balanced diet, avoid drugs and alcohol, and get plenty of exercise.
Nutritional supplements may also help patients with bipolar disorder live fuller lives. According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, supplements that contain amino acids help alleviate symptoms because the body converts them to neurotransmitters. Research shows this treatment may help control bipolar disorder along with major depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia. A balance mixture of amino acids can be taken without any known adverse effects, and does not require medical supervision.