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Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024
The mood swings can affect the individual's ability to function in everyday life.

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). These mood swings can affect the individual’s ability to function in everyday life.

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Treatment typically involves a combination of medication (such as mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, or antidepressants) and psychotherapy.

With proper treatment and support, many individuals with bipolar disorder can manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.

Symptoms

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary widely depending on the type of episode a person is experiencing—mania, hypomania, or depression. Hypomania is similar to mania but less severe.

Here are some common symptoms associated with each:

Manic Episode:

  1. Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
  2. Feeling euphoric or overly happy
  3. Racing thoughts and rapid speech
  4. Grandiose beliefs or inflated self-esteem
  5. Decreased need for sleep
  6. Impulsivity and engaging in risky behaviors (such as spending sprees, reckless driving, or substance abuse)
  7. Difficulty concentrating or staying focused
  8. Agitation or irritability
  9. Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities or powers
  10. Denial that anything is wrong

Hypomanic Episode:

  1. Elevated mood
  2. Increased energy and activity
  3. Decreased need for sleep
  4. Racing thoughts
  5. Increased confidence and productivity
  6. Engaging in pleasurable activities with a heightened sense of enjoyment
  7. Potential irritability or agitation

Depressive Episode:

  1. Persistent sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  2. Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  3. Changes in appetite or weight (either loss or gain)
  4. Sleep disturbances (insomnia or oversleeping)
  5. Fatigue or loss of energy
  6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  7. Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
  8. Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts, or self-harming behaviors

Additionally, some individuals may also experience mixed episodes, where symptoms of mania and depression occur simultaneously or in rapid sequence. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, it’s crucial to seek help from a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Aetiology

Bipolar disorder has a complex aetiology, and both genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a role in its development. While it’s not strictly hereditary in the sense that it follows a simple genetic pattern, there is evidence to suggest a genetic component to bipolar disorder.

Research has shown that individuals with a family history of bipolar disorder are at an increased risk of developing the condition themselves compared to those without such a family history. However, having a family member with bipolar disorder does not guarantee that a person will also develop the disorder, nor does it mean they cannot develop it without a family history.

Several genetic studies have identified potential genetic markers associated with bipolar disorder, suggesting a genetic predisposition. However, it’s essential to recognize that genetics alone do not determine the development of bipolar disorder. Environmental factors, such as stress, trauma, substance abuse, and life events, also play significant roles in triggering or exacerbating symptoms in susceptible individuals.

While there is evidence to suggest a genetic predisposition to bipolar disorder, it is not solely determined by genetics. The interplay between genetic vulnerabilities and environmental influences likely contributes to the development and manifestation of the disorder.

Treatment

The treatment of bipolar disorder typically involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications. The goal of treatment is to stabilize mood, manage symptoms, prevent relapses, and improve overall quality of life.

Here are some common components of bipolar disorder treatment:

  1. Medication:
  • Mood stabilizers: These medications, such as lithium, valproate, and lamotrigine, are often used to stabilize mood and prevent manic and depressive episodes.
  • Atypical antipsychotics: Drugs like quetiapine, olanzapine, and risperidone may be prescribed to manage manic symptoms.
  • Antidepressants: In some cases, antidepressants may be prescribed cautiously to manage depressive symptoms, often in combination with mood stabilizers to prevent triggering manic episodes.
  1. Psychotherapy:
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to mood swings.
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT): IPSRT focuses on stabilizing daily routines and sleep patterns to help regulate mood.
  • Family therapy: Involving family members in therapy can help improve communication, support, and understanding of the disorder.
  1. Lifestyle modifications:
  • Regular exercise: Physical activity can help improve mood, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being.
  • Healthy diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can support overall health and mood stability.
  • Adequate sleep: Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and practicing good sleep hygiene are essential for managing bipolar symptoms.
  • Stress management: Learning relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises, can help reduce stress and prevent mood episodes.
  1. Support groups: Participating in support groups or peer-led organizations can provide valuable support, education, and encouragement for individuals living with bipolar disorder.
  2. Regular monitoring: It’s crucial for individuals with bipolar disorder to have regular follow-up appointments with their healthcare providers to monitor symptoms, adjust medications as needed, and address any concerns.

Treatment for bipolar disorder is often individualized based on the specific needs and preferences of the individual. It may take some time to find the most effective combination of treatments, and ongoing management and support are typically necessary to manage the condition effectively.

How you can help

Supporting someone with bipolar disorder involves providing understanding, empathy, and practical assistance.

Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Educate yourself: Learn about bipolar disorder to understand its symptoms, treatment options, and challenges. This will help you provide informed support and reduce stigma.
  2. Listen actively: Be available to listen without judgment when the person wants to talk about their feelings, experiences, or concerns. Validate their emotions and offer empathy and support.
  3. Encourage treatment: Support the person in seeking professional help and adhering to their treatment plan, including taking medication, attending therapy sessions, and practicing healthy lifestyle habits.
  4. Help with practical tasks: Offer assistance with daily activities, such as household chores, grocery shopping, or meal preparation, especially during times when the person is experiencing symptoms or side effects of medication.
  5. Promote healthy habits: Encourage the person to maintain a regular sleep schedule, eat a balanced diet, engage in regular exercise, and manage stress effectively. Offer to participate in healthy activities together, such as going for walks or cooking healthy meals.
  6. Create a supportive environment: Foster a supportive and understanding atmosphere at home or in the workplace. Encourage open communication, set realistic expectations, and provide reassurance during difficult times.
  7. Respect boundaries: Understand that everyone copes with their condition differently. Respect the person’s boundaries and autonomy while offering support and encouragement.
  8. Stay informed about warning signs: Be aware of the signs of mood changes or potential relapses, and encourage the person to seek help if they experience worsening symptoms or suicidal thoughts.
  9. Seek support for yourself: Supporting someone with bipolar disorder can be challenging and emotionally demanding. Take care of your own well-being by seeking support from friends, family, or support groups, and consider talking to a therapist if needed.
  10. Be patient and understanding: Remember that managing bipolar disorder can be a lifelong journey with ups and downs. Be patient, understanding, and supportive, and celebrate progress and achievements along the way.

By offering understanding, empathy, and practical assistance, you can play a crucial role in helping someone with bipolar disorder manage their condition and improve their quality of life.

By Parvathy Sukumaran

Parvathy Sukumaran is a Content Creator and Editor at JustCare Health. She is an Educator and a Language Lecturer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Education and an M.A in English Literature. She is passionate about writing, archaeology, music and cooking.

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