What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is associated with extremes: from recklessness to listlessness, mania to depression, high to low. Bipolar disorder is a mental illness typify by serious and disabling mood instability. It is also known as manic-depressive illness or manic-depression.

Causes of bipolar disorder

While little is known about the causes of bipolar disorder, it seems that various genetic, biochemical, and environmental factors are involved in triggering bipolar episodes. A number of studies reveal that people that have a biological family history of bipolar disorder are more likely to have the condition than those who do not have a family history of the disorder.

Many studies suggest that neurotransmitters, the naturally occurring brain chemicals linked to mood, may play a major role. Bipolar disorder may also be caused by hormonal imbalances. This condition is also thought to be caused as a result of low self-esteem, high stress, or significant loss.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder

Symptoms of bipolar disorder are characterized by alternating patterns of mania (emotional highs) and depression (emotional lows). Symptoms of the manic stage may include: extreme optimism, euphoria, poor judgment, inflated self-esteem, aggressive behavior, spending sprees, increased sexual drive, drug abuse, and decreased need for sleep

The following are some of the symptoms of the depressive state: hopelessness, sadness, anxiety, suicidal behavior, sleep problems, guilt, fatigue, appetite problems, irritability, loss of interest in every day activities, chronic pain without known causes, and problems concentrating.

How bipolar disorder is diagnosed?

Doctors run a battery of psychological tests and medical exams if bipolar disorder is suspected. In general, exams and tests include physical exam (for example, checking vital signs), laboratory tests (for example, complete blood count and thyroid tests) and psychological evaluation (evaluation of feelings, thoughts, and behavior patterns).

How bipolar disorder is treated?

Bipolar disorder requires long-term treatment even in periods when the patient feels better. Treatment is commonly guided by a team from different areas – psychiatrist as well as psychologists, psychiatric nurses, and social workers – because bipolar disorder can affect the patient’ life in so many areas.

Treatments include medications (mood stabilizers, anti-seizure medications, and antidepressants), psychotherapy (cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, and group therapy), and Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).