Bipolar disorder is the 6th leading cause of disability in the world and results in 9.2 years reduction in expected life span.(1)
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also known as Manic-Depressive Illness, is a chronic mental health condition in which the affected suffer from unpredictable mood swings. Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder may experience the highs of self-importance, racing thoughts, and excitement as well as the lows of sadness, hopelessness, and lost interest in activities. Generally, patients are either in a manic or depressive state, however, when they fluctuate between the two they are considered being in a mixed state. There are two common types of the disorder which can be genetically transmitted, although in some cases individuals may develop the condition after witnessing a traumatic event. There are several treatment options to help patients cope with their condition including medication, psychotherapy, and support groups.
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Although most bipolar disorder patients can lead normal lives, it does affect daily life in several ways. Those affected by bipolar disorder may have substance abuse issues, legal or financial problems, damaged relationships, poor performance at work or school, and might even consider suicide to escape their problems. Some individuals may experience bipolar disorder in conjunction with another condition such as some anxiety disorders, eating disorders, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).(2)
Bipolar disorder symptoms span a wide range as patients can be in either a manic, depressive, or mixed state. In cases with younger individuals, these symptoms may be even more difficult to recognize. Those in a depressed state may show signs of constant sadness, restlessness, fatigue, worthlessness and more. Alternatively, those in a manic state feel euphoria, do not need much sleep, have increased energy, are easily distracted, and more.(3)
Bipolar Disorder Causes and Treatment
Despite the fact that there is no known exact cause, bipolar disorder has been linked to biological differences, genetics, and trauma as three potential causes. Research suggests that bipolar disorder patients show physical changes to the brain. In addition, those who have a first-degree relative with the condition are more susceptible to having it themselves. Traumatic events such as PTSD, abuse, or death can also cause bipolar disorder.(4)
Treatment options for bipolar disorder include medications and psychotherapy. Mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications are all medications that can help control bipolar disorder symptoms. If medications continue to be ineffective, bipolar disorder patients can try psychotherapy options including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), family therapy, relaxation techniques, or interpersonal and social rhythm therapy. In more rare situations, severe cases of depression can be treated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).(5)
Participate in a Bipolar Disorder Support Group
Depending on the case, bipolar disorder patients may show different symptoms. However, participating in a bipolar disorder support group enables individuals to express themselves and cope with their condition in hopes of overcoming it. Caregivers can benefit from these support groups too as they can learn more about ways to ensure that their loved ones remain in a stable state of mind. Participating in a bipolar disorder support group can help control this debilitating disorder.
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