Also known as manic depressive illness, Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness that causes unusual changes in a person’s mood, energy, and activity level. It consists of manic episodes, also called “up” episodes where a person feels extremely elated, irritated, or energized; and depressive, or “down” episodes, where a person tends to feel sad, indifferent, or hopeless. Less severe manic episodes are termed as hypomanic episodes.
Typically diagnosed in the late adolescent or early adulthood years, this disorder is of three types that differ in the magnitude of episode severity. Bipolar 1 disorder is the most severe and requires immediate hospital care. Bipolar 2 disorder is less severe and consists of a pattern of depressive and hypomanic episodes. Cyclothymic disorder consists of periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms that don’t classify as episodes.
The causes of Bipolar disorder are uncertain. Although it has been observed that there are some physical differences in the brain structure of patients, it is yet to be determined if these differences play a role in triggering the disorder. The main trigger is genetics. The risk factors include having a first-degree relative that has the disorder, although the genes that cause it are still unknown. Periods of high stress and drug/alcohol abuse are also risk factors. Bipolar patients may also suffer from anxiety disorders, eating disorders, ADHD, physical health problems, schizophrenia, among others.
The treatment includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy (talk therapy). Medications include mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, antidepressants, and drugs that target sleep or anxiety. Psychotherapy includes Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and psychoeducation.
However, in spite of treatment, patients may experience bipolar episodes throughout their lives and require continuous and consistent therapy.