Symptoms & Signs
The symptoms of Bipolar disorder manifest differently in different people. A difference can occur in their severity, length, and frequency. Some people might have more episodes of mania and some might have more encounters with depressive episode; while others might fluctuate between the two. Mood disruption also differs from person to person. The 4 types of mood episode faced by people with Bipolar Disorder are:-
- Mania – It is denoted by elevated energy, creativity, and excitement. Excessive talking, sleep deprivation and hyperactivity are some common signs of the mania. However, during an extreme stage of the manic phase, there is change noticed in complete behavior wherein a person might show extreme carelessness and indulge in excessive gambling, sexual activities and reckless investments.
- Hypomania- it is a toned down version of mania, most people in this state feel a surge of energy and productivity but their touch with reality is intact and their daily life is not hampered. For most people, a bipolar person may just seem to be in a good. However often, it changes to depressive episode or mania.
- Depressive episode- Similar to depression, people with depressive mood might encounter insomnia, loss or increase in appetite or a constant feeling of not being good enough, etc.
Common symptoms of bipolar depression include:
- Loss of hope
- Inability to experience pleasure
- Loss of temper
- Change in appetite and weight
- Loss of sleep
- Loss of focus
- Memory issues
- Feeling tired throughout the day
Similar to mental health disorders, the exact cause of bipolar disorder is not precisely known, but it is believed that multiple factors may lead to it, such as:
- Biological Factors – There are physical changes in the brains of people with bipolar disorder
- Neurotransmitters – Neurotransmitters is a brain chemical, imbalance of which is linked to bipolar disorder.
- Hereditary – If Bipolar disorder runs in the family then it is more likely for one to have the same condition.
The severity of bipolar disorder ranges from mild to severe. Having episodes of depression and mania to some degree is common in all. The three main types of bipolar disorder are:
Bipolar I Disorder – Bipolar I entails at-least one major manic episodes lasting more than a week span and the severity of symptoms leads to disturbance in patient’s personal and professional life.Escalated self-esteem, sleep deprivation, excessive talking, increase in goal-oriented activity and excessive involvement in risky activities. In severe cases, need to hospitalize the patient can arise, to stop the patient from harming oneself and others. Losing touch with reality can be an indication of a psychotic breakdown which can happen in some cases. Bipolar I can also manifest in the form of “mixed” episode, where the patient experience symptoms of mania and a depression.
Bipolar II Disorder – Bipolar II disorder entails at-least one full-blown depressive episode along with at least one hypomanic episode over a span of four or more days. The highs in bipolar II (hypomania), aren’t as severe as those in bipolar I (manias) thus the episode doesn’t make patient dysfunctional in a day to day life and there is an absence of psychotic symptoms. Sometime hypomania episodes go unrecognized. Thus Bipolar II disorder is misdiagnosed as major depression.
Cyclothymia – It is a much milder form of bipolar disorder that is characterized by several hypomanic episodes and less severe depression episodes. These episodes alternate for two years or more. The severity of this illness keeps changing over time.
Accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder has come up with advancements in Medical Science, and a better understanding of different moods experienced in bipolar disorder; unlike in the recent past when bipolar disorder was confused with other disorders such as schizophrenia or depression. A good therapist can identify the signs and symptoms of bipolar depression and in most cases, deal with this disorder efficiently and safely.
Diagnosis of Bipolar disorder is made after careful assessment of symptoms along with their pattern, magnitude, and frequency. The diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder is not dependent on daily “mood swings”. Having a long span of elevated mood, along with an upsurge in energy, insomnia, hasty speech etc. also matters.
For an accurate diagnosis, therapist or psychologist will ask you an array of questions related to your personal history as well as your family history related to bipolar and other mood disorders. These questions include detail related to bipolar symptoms, reasoning, memory, and ability to maintain relationships.
If you believe you have had symptoms similar to bipolar disorder, then you should visit a therapist or a clinical psychologist immediately. Getting a family member along with you is helpful. At times they can provide better and more detailed information regarding, person’s unusual behaviors.
Treatment for bipolar disorder is supervised by a clinical psychologist. The treatment team also includes a therapist who focuses on psychotherapy. Psychiatrists may prescribe medicines in extreme cases to stabilize the moods. It may also include antipsychotic drugs. However, the need to take medication for bipolar disorder is very rare. Maintenance treatment – Bipolar disorder requires lifelong treatment, even during times when the person feels better. People who don’t undergo maintenance treatment are at high risk of a relapse of bipolar disorder.
Psychotherapy is a very crucial part of treating Bipolar Disorder and is useful for the person as well as the family. Several types of therapy including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be helpful here. The focus of CBT is identifying negative beliefs and behaviors and replacing them with healthy, positive ones. It helps identify triggers of bipolar episodes. Furthermore, it helps the patient learn effective strategies to manage stress and to cope with upsetting situations.