Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes dramatic mood swings and energy levels and inhibits the ability to think clearly. Their mood shifts from manic to depressive. Bipolar disorder affect both men and women equally and can occur at any age but most likely shows the first signs before the age of 25. 2.9% of the U.S. population is diagnosed with bipolar disorder every year and around 83% of those cases are severe. It is a long term disease but it is manageable with medication. People often live with the disease without being diagnosed.
Bipolar disease causes mood swings that can make someone manic at one moment and depressive at another. A person with extreme bipolar episodes can also experience psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and take risks without thinking about the consequences.
Signs of high (manic) episodes include:
- Intrusive and aggressive behavior
- Impulsiveness such as extreme spending sprees, fast driving, impromptu travel
- Not being able to sleep
- Unable to concentrate
- Talking very fast and constantly switching
- Abuse of drugs like sleeping pills or cocaine
- Unusual energy and heightened self-esteem
Signs of low episodes include:
- Unintended weight loss or gain
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Sleeping too much or not sleeping at all
- Suicidal thoughts
- Difficulty remembering things
How it is Diagnosed
If you or someone you know are exhibiting these symptoms then it is important that you seek out a medical professional. Bipolar disorder cannot be diagnosed by blood tests or brain scans yet. First doctors rule out other illnesses that may be causing these symptoms like a brain tumor or stroke. The doctor will most likely do a mental health evaluation or refer the patient to a psychiatrist. Most likely patients will seek out help when they are depressed rather than in a manic (high) mood so it is important that a full examination is done so bipolar disorder is not diagnosed as major depression.
- Bipolar I Disorder – severe high episodes that last one to two weeks. To be diagnosed as Bipolar I a person must have manic episodes that last longer than 7 days. These will most likely be so severe that they cause hospitalization. They have severe periods of depression and mania that differ from their normal behavior.
- Bipolar II Disorder – this is when people experience shifts in behavior from depression to euphoria but never have full manic episodes.
- Cyclothymic Disorder – experience brief periods of depression and hypomania for at least two years. This is a milder form of bipolar disorder as people have brief periods of normal mood that last less than eight weeks
- Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified – This is diagnosed when a person does not meet the criteria for bipolar I, II or cyclothymia but has periods of low and high episodes. However these do not last long enough to fall in the other categories.
- Rapid Cycling – This is diagnosed when a person has four or more mood episodes within a 12-month period.
There is no cure for bipolar disorder however it is manageable with therapy and medication. Medications that are generally used are mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. Psychotherapy is used to provide support and education to people suffering from bipolar disorder as well as their families.