Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that includes emotional highs (hypomania and mania) and lows (depression). Each phase lasts for several weeks to months, followed by drastic emotional changes. Both adults and children are at risk of developing bipolar disorder.
Hypomania refers to the phase when a person with bipolar disorder feels very excited and confident, and can be observed making impulsive decisions and behaving rashly. During the hypomanic phase, certain people can experience delusions or hallucinations, in which they seem to see or hear things that are not real. This is a symptom of mania, which is higher than hypomania. Mania can interfere with how people with bipolar disorder live their daily lives.
Meanwhile, depression refers to the phase when a person with bipolar disorder feels very sad and depressed. The symptoms are the same as clinical depressive disorder — there is guilt, hopelessness, anxiety, or sensitiveness. If not treated when someone goes through the depression phase, it may have adverse effects like attempted suicide.
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Causes of Bipolar Disorder
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. However, it is widely suspected that this disorder is the result of neurotransmitter imbalance. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit a message from a nerve cell across the synapse to a target cell to control brain function.
Neurotransmitter imbalance is thought to be the cause of bipolar disorder. Factors behind it involve genetics, physical, and social factors/triggers. The following are some things that can trigger bipolar:
- Chronic sleep disorders.
- Alcoholism and drug use.
- Losing a close relative who died.
- Experiencing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
- Having health, financial, family problems, and so on.
- Going through divorce or a break up.
When to See a Doctor for Bipolar Disorder?
A diagnosis of bipolar disorder will be provided by a psychiatrist. Treatment for adults and children is quite different. To diagnose bipolar disorder, doctors will usually perform evaluations such as:
- Physical test: the doctor will order a physical test and laboratory tests to identify any medical problems that can trigger bipolar disorder symptoms.
- Psychiatric test: the doctor may refer a patient to a psychiatrist for the patient to share about their thoughts and feelings. The patient may also be asked to fill out a questionnaire. If bipolar disorder symptoms are found, the doctor will convey information to family members or close relatives.
- Create daily notes: the patient may be asked to keep a diary to write down what they feel during the day. Sleep patterns or other factors can help diagnose and find the right treatment.
Although the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents has the same criteria as an adult diagnosis, bipolar disorder symptoms in the former tend to have a different pattern.
Children with bipolar disorder are often diagnosed alongside other mental health conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or behavioral problems that can make a complex diagnosis even more complicated. You are recommended to ask for a referral to a child psychiatrist to have a more precise test and recovery process.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
There are several types of bipolar disorders and related disorders. Each type has different symptoms. They may include the patient being in the mania or hypomania and depression phase. Patients experiencing bipolar symptoms can have drastic changes in their mood and behavior. This condition will have an impact on daily activities either at work, school, or in a social environment.
- Bipolar I disorder. The patient experiences a mania phase which turns into a sudden depressive phase. In some cases, patients might experience psychosis, which is difficulty distinguishing between reality and imagination. The manic phase usually lasts 1 week, while the depressive phase lasts for 2 weeks.
- Bipolar II disorder. People with bipolar II disorder experience a hypomanic phase, where a person may seem very excited mentally and physically, but does not experience a depressive phase. This phase usually lasts only 4 days.
- Cyclothymic disorder. This is a bipolar disorder that is lighter in intensity in comparison to bipolar type I and II, as cyclothymic disorders have a lighter intensity of hypomania and depression, even though it has nearly similar symptoms.
- Other types. This is caused by alcohol or certain medications, as well as related health issues.
Although bipolar disorder can occur in both adults and children, it can only be diagnosed when children become teens or enter their early 20s. Symptoms may vary and continue to change from time to time.
Treatments for Bipolar Disorder
There are at least two approaches to treat bipolar disorder:
Numerous medications are used to treat and relieve bipolar disorder symptoms. The type and dose of medications prescribed by the doctor depends on the symptoms experienced. According to Mayo Clinic, these are the types of medications to treat bipolar disorders:
- Mood stabilizers. Patients can be given mood-stabilizing medication to control manic or hypomanic episodes. Examples of mood stabilizers include lithium, valproic acid, divalproex sodium, carbamazepine, and lamotrigine (Lamictal).
- Antipsychotics. Medications to help with symptoms of psychosis. Adding an antipsychotic drug such as olanzapine, risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine, aripiprazole, and ziprasidone (Geodon) may help
- Antidepressants. Medication to help manage depression. Because an antidepressant can sometimes trigger a manic episode, it’s usually prescribed along with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic.
- Anti-anxiety medications. Your doctor will prescribe a benzodiazepine for anxiety and sleep disorders, but these are usually used on a short-term basis.
Psychological counseling (psychotherapy) treatment is provided to individuals, families, or groups. Types of psychotherapy include:
- Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT). Treatments that focus on stabilising daily rhythms, such as sleep/wake cycles and meal times. Regular routines are believed to help manage your mood.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This treatment replaces negative behaviors with healthier, more positive behaviors that are effective in managing stress and coping with disappointing situations.
- Family-focused therapy. This therapy involves support from family or close relatives that can help in managing symptoms of drastic mood swings.
- Psychoeducation. This treatment provides information and understanding of bipolar disorder in identifying problems, preventing relapses, and surviving treatment.
Treatments Costs of Bipolar Disorder
The medical costs for bipolar treatment are calculated based on the number of counseling sessions with a psychiatrist or therapist.
The estimated treatment costs depend on the hospital, location, and the doctor. People with bipolar disorder usually have to undergo regular consultations lasting 6 months or more.
For more detailed information on the cost of bipolar treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Bipolar Disorders
Until now, the exact cause of bipolar disorder is still unknown. It is very important to be alert and understand the symptoms of bipolar disorder early on. By recognizing the symptoms, patients have a greater chance of getting prompt and effective treatment, which helps prevent long-term illness and suicidal thoughts.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder
Family plays a very important role of providing care for bipolar patients at home. The main reason is that the family must do everything they can to not trigger the patient’s symptoms to recur, continue to provide support, and be alert to monitor if symptoms appear. Make sure someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder regularly takes the medications prescribed by the doctor, keeps a mood tracker, and shares any problems experienced.
Although people with bipolar disorder can be treated at home, they must still schedule regular consultations with a doctor or therapist. If you have symptoms of mania or hypomania and depression, see a doctor or therapist immediately. Bipolar disorder does not go away on its own. It is best if you seek professional care to help manage your bipolar disorder symptoms.