Bipolar Disorder

Published: March 17, 2011

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What Is It?

Bipolar disorder is a problem in brain that causes frequent shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. Symptoms vary from person to person in terms of severity and duration. For some patients, feelings of depression and elevated moods may rotate or cycle. For other patients, moods might shift quickly, and for others, feelings of depression and happiness might alternate over a period of months. Patients might feel strong feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, and hopelessness followed by extreme periods of happiness. The condition can escalate and include symptoms of delusions, hallucinations, and other types of psychosis. Patients might begin to behave strangely or out of character.

Bipolar disorder can cause severe social problems. A patient might be unable to carry out day-to-day tasks, maintain relationships, or hold a job. Some patients have been known to commit crimes while suffering from an episode. Mood swings are unpredictable and can last for several days or several months. Most commonly, symptoms begin in adolescence and young adulthood.

The disorder can affect you and everyone around you: your friends, family, coworkers, and peers. With treatment, a normal life is possible.

The history of bipolar disorder is extensive, and records of the condition date back as far as the second century. It was classified under the term "bipolar disorder" in 1980.

Types

Bipolar I: Patients experience symptoms that range from mania to depression. Previously, Bipolar I was classified as manic depression. Symptoms of depression can last for at least two weeks, and accompanying manic behavior can last for one week. This type of bipolar disorder requires hospitalization.

Bipolar II is characterized by less severe mood swings alternating between periods of hypomania and depression. Manic feelings and behaviors are not symptoms of this condition. Acute cases do not require hospitalization. Medications might be required for long term treatment.

Cyclothymic is a very mild form of bipolar disorder. Symptoms can be subtle and may persist for several years. This form of bipolar disorder may go undetected. Hypomania might be an accompanying symptom. Regular psychiatric treatment might be necessary.

Mixed bipolar disorder is characterized by simultaneous mania and depression. This dangerous mix causes symptoms of racing thoughts and excessive energy along with irritability, anger and guilt. Violent or criminal actions might result from an untreated mixed bipolar condition.

Rapid cycling bipolar disorder is characterized by four or more periods of severe depression, mania, or hypomania within a year's time. Rapid cycling can occur within a week or even a day. Most patients begin to experience rapid cycling as teens or young adults. Rapid cycling rates are more common among women.

Symptoms & Warning Signs

The following include typical symptoms of bipolar disorder:

  • Rapid speech
  • Rapid actions
  • Increased sex drive
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Guilt
  • Chronic pain
  • Psychosis
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Out of character behaviors

Sometimes, it is difficult to identify symptoms when you are experiencing them. A family member or friend might point out your symptoms.

Causes & Risk Factors

Bipolar symptoms will experience periods of extreme happiness followed by periods of extreme depression. You might notice that these emotions are becoming worse over time, and you might be having trouble managing your life. A family history of bipolar disorder is one of the biggest indicators of whether you will develop the condition.

Although the precise etiology of bipolar disorder is unknown, doctors believe that a number of genetic and environmental factors are responsible.

Prevention & Treatment

It is important to seek treatment for bipolar disorder as soon as possible. If you do not treat the condition promptly, your symptoms may become worse and put you at risk of harm. You need to work with a doctor to find the best treatment options. Some doctors might prefer not to use medication, while other doctors believe that medication is necessary. Some patients need to be hospitalized.

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