If you regularly experience extreme mood swings, energy fluctuations, and difficulty functioning, you may have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a common and often debilitating mental illness that affects millions of nearly 6 million adults in the United States alone in any given year.
Unfortunately, the condition is often underdiagnosed because the symptoms can mimic other psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety, often leading to inadequate treatment and an increased risk for relapse.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition characterized by extreme shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. These shifts in mood can be intense and sudden and can significantly disrupt a person’s ability to function. There are two main types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder.
Bipolar I disorder is characterized by severe manic episodes (periods of elevated or increased energy and activity) that last at least seven days or are severe enough to necessitate hospitalization. Bipolar II disorder is characterized by less severe manic (hypomania) and severe depressive episodes that can last for weeks.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not fully understood, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Research suggests that individuals with a family history of bipolar disorder are more likely to develop the condition themselves. Other potential risk factors include a history of trauma, excessive stress, and substance abuse.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
As mentioned earlier, the main symptoms of bipolar disorder are extreme shifts in mood, energy, and behavior – which can vary depending on the type of episode.
Symptoms during manic episodes:
- Elevated or irritable mood
- Increased energy and activity levels
- Decreased need for sleep or rest
- Racing thoughts and ideas
- Difficulty focusing on tasks
- Engaging in risky or reckless behaviors
- Illusions of grandeur
- Incoherent speaking
- Poor decision making
- Reckless or risky behavior
Symptoms during depressive episodes
- Persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness
- Loss of interest in activities
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Social isolation
Living with Bipolar Disorder
Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging, but it is possible to manage the condition and live a fulfilling life. The most effective treatment for bipolar disorder is a combination of medication and therapy.
Medications, such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics, can help regulate mood and prevent manic or depressive episodes. Talk therapy, on the other hand, can help you better understand your condition, identify and manage factors that trigger shifts in mood, and develop healthy coping skills.
It is also important for people with bipolar disorder to prioritize self-care, including getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in regular physical activity. These habits can help to manage symptoms and reduce the frequency and intensity of manic and depressive episodes.
Bipolar disorder is a serious and complex mental health condition, but with the right treatment and support, it is possible to manage the condition and live a fulfilling life. If you or someone you know is experiencing severe of the above symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek help.