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Bipolar Disorder - Quick Overview With Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Precautions

Last Updated: Sep 04, 2019

What is Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a brain disease or mental illness, also known as manic depressive illness characterized by extreme shift in mood that causes difficulties in performing day-to-day activities. The observation had determined changes in mood, energy levels and activity levels along with ability to function any task. A patient suffering from BD may feel sudden mood swings like extreme rise in mood or emotions (mania or hypomania) and extreme low level (depression).

A clear mood change is experienced by patient such as hypomania feeling of euphoric, full of energy or unusually irritable and hopeless periods, very sad or down feeling and behavior as depressive episode. It

affects person in every aspect of daily routine as moods swings are influencing in sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior and ability to think. Depression occurring in such disease state may last for at least two week of time period whereas other episode like mania or hypomania can last several week or month with periods of stability in between.

What are the Signs And Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Symptoms of bipolar disorder are categorized on basis of occurrence of episodes in patients because the mood swing varies amongst people. There are dramatic episodes observed with sudden high or low moods for a typical person causing difficulty and distress in regular life.

  • Manic or hypomanic conditions – In occurrence of such type of episodes, patient experiences abnormal upbeat, jumpy or weird, feeling extremely high, up and elevated, increased activity, energy and agitation levels, impaired judgment power, feeling of boredom or sense of distraction, restlessness, poor concentration, unusual high level of sexual drive, may become more impulsive, talks very fast about a topic started, very less sleep as compared to regular, perform risky tasks such as spend a lot of money, thinking they can do anything with excessive self-confidence, self-esteem and self-importance.
  • Depressive episode – Depression starts with low attention span and difficulty remembering, insomnia and disturbed sleep patterns, uncontrollable crying and sadness , feeling of hopelessness, worry, very sad, down and worthlessness, problems in concentrations, food intake will sudden increase or decrease, forgets things, thoughts of attempting suicide or death.

What is the Main Cause Of Bipolar Disorder?

Brain is a mystery for doctors as well as researchers and as BD is a mental illness which has a symptoms also varying person to person, it is difficult to identify a single cause behind this disease. Although, there are some factors understood by researcher that are causing bipolar disease as mentioned below:

  • Brain structure and functioning – Yes, it plays an important role as brains works in different manner for healthy people while compared with people suffering from any mental illnesses. After studying brain of healthy people and mentally ill people, scientists have better understand bipolar disease through which a treatment plan can be suggested. Any type of physical change in brain or abnormalities may increase risk of occurrence of such disease.
  • Genetics –If a parent or siblings of person have a history of disease may be at high risk of development of bipolar disorder.
  • Environmental factors- physical illness, extreme stress, any type of traumatic experience etc. are also factors contributing to the development of such disease.

What are the Precautions for Bipolar Disorder?

Severe abnormalities in mood basically involved in bipolar disorder that is generally diagnosed in age range of 15 to 25 years. Once a person diagnosed with BD, early preventive steps can help in dealing with such disease and prevent mental illness from being worsen. There are some strategies need to be followed as preventive measures of minor symptoms from becoming full episode of mania or depression:

  • Look for warning signs – the person suffering from bipolar disorder have mood swings that helps in identification of pattern of BD along with its trigger. Family members or friends should look after and notice such warning signs and if there is high level of episode then call immediately doctor.
  • Stop drugs and alcohol- The episodes of such mental illnesses can be worsen if a patient is consuming drugs or alcohol as it increase frequencies of signs and recurrences chances.
  • Follow the treatment plan – Doctor will provide a treatment plan that may contain medication and therapy sessions or both. Withdrawal symptoms of such diseases may stop a person from taking medication or tempted. But try to complete the medication and the plan as described.


How Do You Diagnose Bipolar Disorder?

There are different diagnosive processes for determining BD in person. If a person is suffering in the early stage of bipolar disease, the observation of only one or more manic or mixed episodes lasting for days’ time period are noticed while such episode are lasting for several weeks or months in person suffering from bipolar disorder type II. Doctors perform certain tests and examines the patient alertness to identify the disease. Physical examination along with blood and urine tests can help in ruling out the cause of symptoms. Bipolar disorder diagnosis may include the following:

  • Physical examination: the doctor shall carry out physical examinations to identify the symptoms associated with the diseases. The doctor may ask for lab tests.
  • Psychiatric assessment: A psychiatrist will talk to the patient about the thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns. The doctor may ask family history, family environment, daily routine etc. so as to gain information about the symptoms.
  • Mood assessment: The doctor may ask the patient to keep a daily record of sleep patterns, mood and behavioural patterns so as to understand the cause of mood swings for finding the right treatment."

What are the Most Effective Treatments For Bipolar Disorder?

Effectiveness of any treatment plan depends on the severity of the disease and treatment plan provided by the medical professionals. BD is a lifelong illness where only medication or therapies cannot work alone and they need to be prescribed in combination. Medications usually prescribed for bipolar disorder includes mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotic, antidepressants. Before starting these medications, a person should know about the risks and benefits of such agents.

During the treatment, a person should not stop this medication without informing or advice of doctor as it may leads to worsening of symptoms of bipolar disease or rebound effect. Psychotherapies are also suggested along with medications which are considered as effective treatment for bipolar disorder as it give support, education and guidance to people as well as to their families. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Family-focused therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, and psycho education are parts of psychotherapy for bipolar orders.

How to Treat Bipolar Disorder at Home?

BD usually need a complete follow up of treatment plan along with certain activities need to be done at home. To manage signs and symptoms or occurrence of episodes, patient should keep a routine for eating and sleeping activity, try to learn about the mood changes or swings, can seek out help from friends or family member for the following treatment plan.

Patient or family members should always be in touch and work closely with doctor or licensed healthcare provider. A person suffering from bipolar disorder can manage and balance his everyday life after understanding the disease itself.

Can Bipolar be Treated Without Medication?

The answer is No because bipolar disorder is a lifelong disease and it is not curable. It is always required that person with bipolar should take medication that helps in dealing with mood swings along with other forms of treatment plans. There is Electroconvulsive therapy for people who are unable to recover with other treatment plans but is only suggested when people have higher risk due to medication or conditions like pregnancy.


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Written ByDr. Milind Barhate MBBS,DPMPsychiatry
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