Bipolar disorder, more commonly known as manic depression is a psychiatric disorder in which the individual undergoes severe shifts in mood and energy levels. This shift that a person undergoes is called an episode. A person suffering from bipolar disorder undergoes repeated episodes of depression, mania and/or intermittent cycles of depression and mania simultaneously. Bipolar disorder occurs equally in men and women between the ages of 15 and 25.
The cause of bipolar disorder is still unclear as it varies from individual to individual. Most psychiatrists believe that psychiatric disorders are the combined effect of various factors; biological, physiological, environmental etc. Since the cause of this disorder eludes most psychiatrists, there are several fingers pointing to genetics as the cause. However, there is no concrete study which proves this theory.
Stress has been found as a common cause for bipolar disorder, just as it is for most other psychiatric disorders. Extreme stress causes abnormalities in the HPA Axis which is a part of the system that controls stress, moods, emotions, sexuality etc. This automatically leads to extreme mood swings marking the onset of bipolar disorder.
Physiological abnormalities are another cause for bipolar disorder. Research reveals a reduction in brain volume and other differences in areas of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex is common amongst patients of bipolar disorder. This has led to the belief that any in the structural and/or functional abnormalities in the brain could be the underlying cause.
Drugs, insomnia, any major episode such as abuse, rape or even childbirth could serve as a trigger.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder are not as elusive as the cause, but vary largely and are basically mood swings. A person suffering from this disorder might experience mania, depression or a mixed episode. We shall review the symptoms of each below.
Mania is characterized by an elevation in mood and energy levels. The person becomes euphoric, excited, aroused and in some cases even agitated and violent. The intensity of mania varies from mild mania i.e. hypomania to full blown mania. Those in a state of hypomania suffer from insomnia, high energy levels, and extreme competitiveness and are very outgoing. This actually enables them to function better and makes them more productive as opposed to those in a state of full blown mania, who suffer from delusions, hallucinations, aggression, violence etc which makes them unable to function in society. Manic episodes occur once every 2-4 years but in more severe cases they can occur annually and last for a few days or even months.
Depression is characterized by a drop in mood and energy levels. It causes loss of sleep and appetite, social antagonism or withdrawal, low self-esteem, a feeling of gloom and dejection. In severe cases, it leads to suicidal thoughts and even suicide, if not diagnosed and treated in time.
Mixed episode is a state where mania and depression occur simultaneously. The individual suffers panic attacks, impulsiveness, agitation as well as guilt, dejection and fatigue. For instance, the individual may start crying during a manic episode or become excited during a depressive episode. Mixed episodes are the most dangerous because they make the individual feel incompetent as he find himself unable to cope with moods from both ends of the spectrum simultaneously, often leading to suicidal thoughts and in a significant number of cases even suicide.
These are some more of the symptoms that characterize bipolar disorder.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder are difficult to recognize since they can be passed off as mood swings or change in personality. The diagnosis is also difficult since the cause remains ambiguous and the symptoms by themselves are common to most psychiatric disorders and can be easily confused. Also, it is common for more than one psychiatric disorder to occur at a given time.
Bipolar disorder is the 5th leading cause of disability. One out of every three people suffering from bipolar commit suicide and this rate is 60 times higher than the normal population. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help one combat this disorder with a recovery rate of 98% over 2 years of treatment. All you need is the right awareness and information. Read more about bipolar disorder here and maybe you can help save someone from the demons of their mind.