Helpful Information on Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is increasingly common worldwide, and is not to be confused with clinical depression. In comparison to a depressed person who is ‘down’ in their mood and outlook nearly all the time, a person with bipolar disorder will move between very upbeat and energized to then being extremely despondent and down. This cycle continues ongoingly, and the pattern of going from feeling great to feeling absolutely miserable is the reason why bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression. This moving from the two extreme ends of the mood spectrum is the most defining of all bipolar symptoms. As for an effective bipolar disorder treatment, it is a condition that typically requires a pairing of thought pattern therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and effective medication.

We’ll look at bipolar symptoms and bipolar disorder treatments in greater detail here, as well as define what is bipolar disorder exactly. In addition, we’ll look at the physiological imbalances that are what causes bipolar disorder. Like clinical depression, it has everything to do with neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain and often people are born with a genetic predisposition for it.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

In addition to the extreme high / extreme low cycle that characterizes manic depression, sufferers will also typically have changes in sleep, thinking, and behavior. When a person is in the ‘manic’ stage of the disorder is when they’re feeling really good, and during this stage the person may comes across are irrationally happy and overly confident or optimistic about matters.

Sometimes these people will also display poor judgment and excessive risk taking as part of their manic stage. In extreme cases they may be delusional, see hallucinations, or perceive dreams or unconscious experiences to be reality. The person will then often turn on a dime to enter the ‘depressive’ stage and exhibit poor mood, extreme irritability, irrational negativity, and profound sadness or thoughts of suicide in extreme cases.

It is well understood that people with bipolar disorder generally spend more time with depressive symptoms than manic ones. There are three types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I – at least one manic episode, but not necessarily followed by a depressive episode
  • Bipolar II – each manic episode is followed by a hypomanic episode
  • Cyclothymia – involves episodes of hypomania and clinical depression, with manic and depressive episodes that are milder than those experienced by people with Bipolar I or Bipolar II

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Although they are very different conditions with different symptoms as noted above, the connection between clinical depression and manic depression – bipolar disorder – is important. Depression is primarily caused by deficiencies with 2 of the 4 major neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. They are serotonin and dopamine, and when you don’t have enough of them you will struggle to maintain a healthy mood, perspective, and outlook. You may also sleep poorly for years, which can itself factor into the development of bipolar disorder.

Being predisposed to serotonin and dopamine imbalances is, unfortunately, something you often inherit from one of your parents. Researchers have also noted that sometimes profound brain changes that occur later in life can lead to a person getting bipolar disorder. Lastly, chronic stress can contribute to the onset of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Symptoms

In addition to what’s been detailed above, the following bipolar symptoms are commonly seen in a person in the manic stage:

  • Excessive and sometimes irrational happiness, hopefulness, and excitement
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid speech and poor concentration (which is occasionally misattributed to ADHD)
  • Unusually high sex drive
  • Increased energy and less need for sleep
  • Having grand, and often unrealistic plans or expectations
  • Poor judgment
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Increasingly impulsive behavior

Then these bipolar symptoms are often observed in the same individual as they enter the depressive stage:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of energy
  • Disinterest in people / activities previously enjoyed
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Extreme irritability
  • Craving sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite changes that may lead to weight gain or loss
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Fortunately, bipolar disorder is very treatable. Physicians will almost always start by prescribing mood-stabilizer medications like Tegretol, Lamictal, Seroquel or Zyprexa. Standard SSRi antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil, or Celexa may also be prescribed depending on the symptoms and after reviewing any medical history of previous mental illnesses.

Physicians will also often suggest that men or women with bipolar symptoms will be best served by engaging in psychotherapy, aka ‘talk therapy’, as a means of augmenting the therapeutic effects of their prescribed meds. CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, is also very effective for minimizing bipolar symptoms.

Others who have recovered from severe bipolar disorder have attributed a lot of their success to acupuncture.

Substance abuse issues are particularly problematic for someone undergoing a bipolar disorder treatment as alcohol and drug reduce the effectiveness of the medication AND can compound the severity of bipolar symptoms.

Other Considerations

The average at which people start to show bipolar symptoms is 25, and it’s estimated to be affecting up to 5 million people at any given time in America. Men tend to be diagnosed with bipolar earlier in life, while for women it tends onset later. Women have milder manic episodes and more extreme depressive ones, while for men it is the exact opposite – stronger manic episodes, milder depressive ones.