Bipolar Disorder: Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Bipolar disorder, a mental health condition, is characterised by intense mood swings, including episodes of high energy (mania or hypomania) and periods of deep sadness (depression). These mood swings can have an impact on behaviour, energy levels, sleep quality, and day-to-day functioning.

Although bipolar disorder is a long-term condition, it is manageable with the appropriate treatment plan. The types, symptoms, causes, and treatments of bipolar disorder will all be covered in detail in this article, which will give you a thorough understanding of the disorder and the methods for successfully managing it.

Types of Bipolar Disease

Let’s look at some important types of bipolar disorder disease:

Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar I disorder is identified by at least one manic episode, which is an abnormally elevated mood state that can significantly impair daily functioning. These manic episodes are usually so severe that they necessitate immediate hospitalisation to prevent harm to oneself or others, or they last for at least seven days.

Bipolar I patients also experience depressive episodes, which usually last for two weeks or longer. These depressive episodes can be extremely crippling, resulting in a great deal of melancholy, hopelessness, and dissatisfaction with most things. The extreme mood swings between depression and mania can have a notable impact on a person’s ability to maintain stable relationships and employment.

Bipolar II Disorder

A pattern of hypomanic and depressive episodes is present in people with bipolar II disorder. Hypomania is a milder form of mania. When someone has hypomania, they may feel happy, be more productive, and have greater creativity, but they do not exhibit the extreme behaviours associated with full-blown mania. 

Bipolar II, however, is not a less severe form of Bipolar I. Intense and prolonged depressive episodes are a common feature of Bipolar II, and they can cause significant distress and challenges in daily life. It can be complex and unpredictable to manage the pattern that results from the periodic attacks of hypomania and depression.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Chronic cyclothymia, also known as cyclothymic disorder, a rare disorder, is defined by unpredictable mood swings, changing between depressive and hypomanic episodes. These symptoms are prevalent most days and last for at least two years in adults (one year in children and teenagers).

Significant mood swings and emotional instability are common in people with cyclothymic disorder, which can negatively impact both personal and professional lives. Even though cyclothymia symptoms are not as severe as those of Bipolar I or II, they are nevertheless constant, which over time can cause distress and reduced functioning.

Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar Disorders

Symptoms of bipolar disorder that don’t exactly match the diagnostic standards for cyclothymia, bipolar I, or bipolar II fall into these categories. This group of people may experience severe mood disorders that negatively affect their lives, but their instances may not be severe or prolonged enough to match the other bipolar disorders.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Symptoms of Bipolar disorders include:

Manic Episodes

An unusually elevated mood, increased energy, and strange behaviour are the main symptoms of manic episodes. A few examples are:

  • Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
  • Excessively high, euphoric mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Racing thoughts and talking very fast
  • Distractibility and difficulty focusing
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers
  • Poor judgment leading to risky behaviours
Hypomanic Episodes 

Hypomanic episodes are like manic episodes but less severe. Although they have similar symptoms, they don’t significantly affect social or professional functioning. Despite their less apparent nature, hypomanic episodes can still cause disruptions to an individual’s life and relationships.

Depressive Episodes

Depressive episodes in bipolar disorder include the following symptoms:

  • Feeling depressed nearly every day, for the majority of the time.
  • Significantly less enjoyment or interest in almost all activities.
  • Not dieting, weight gain, or a notable drop in weight or an increase in appetite.
  • Oversleeping or insomnia.
  • Intense or slow psychomotor activity.
  • Exhaustion or low enthusiasm.
  • Excessive or inappropriate guilt or a sense of worthlessness.
  • Reduced capacity for concentration and thought, or uncertainty.
  • Suicidal thoughts or an attempt at suicide.
Mixed Episodes

A mixed episode occurs when manic and depressive symptoms appear at the same time or very quickly after one another. It can be incredibly distressing and confusing for the people going through these episodes because they might feel extremely high and low at the same time, which increases the risk of developing severe emotional instability.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Here are a few things that might be the cause of bipolar disorders:

Genetic Factors

A strong genetic component may be involved in bipolar disorder as it often runs in families. According to research, there is an increased risk of bipolar disorder in people who have a direct relative with the disease, such as a parent or sibling. 

However, a number of genetic factors work together to increase the risk rather than just one gene being the cause. The interaction between these genetic predispositions and external factors influences the risk of developing bipolar disorder.

Biological Factors

Changes in the structure and function of the brain significantly influence bipolar disorder. Scientific research has found that certain brain regions, like the prefrontal cortex and amygdala, might differ in size and activity in individuals with bipolar disorder.

Significant contributions can also come from abnormalities in neurotransmitters, the chemicals that help transmit signals within the brain. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result from these biological defects that impact one’s thinking skills and how one feels.

Environmental Factors

Bipolar disorder can develop in people who are genetically predisposed to it when they experience environmental factors like stress, trauma, and major life changes. Although they don’t cause the disorder directly, these variables have a significant impact on when it starts and how it progresses. 

Events that are traumatic, long-term stressors, or significant life changes like shifting locations, changing careers, or losing a loved one can all serve as factors either by causing the first episode or making preexisting symptoms worse. To manage and avoid bipolar disorder episodes, one needs to understand the effects of environmental stressful situations.

Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder

Here are treatment options for bipolar disorder that can help manage symptoms and improve life quality:

Medication

Medication is frequently the cornerstone of treatment for bipolar disorder as it significantly reduces the symptoms of both manic and depressive episodes.  It is essential for the long-term treatment of the disease and preserving emotional stability.

Mood Stabilisers

Lithium is one of the key mood stabilisers that helps manage manic or hypomanic episodes and stabilise mood swings. They function by restoring the proper balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, which lessens the frequency and intensity of mood swings.

Antipsychotics

Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat manic or mixed episodes, and they are especially useful when mood stabilisers are not enough. For those with bipolar disorder, some antipsychotics have a dual benefit in that they can effectively treat depressive episodes.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants can be used carefully to treat depression episodes. Usually, they are taken with mood stabilisers to avoid mania. Utilising antidepressants with other treatments reduces the risk of mania while encouraging mood balance.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, often called talk therapy, is another vital component of treatment that provides methods for controlling symptoms and enhancing quality of life. It aids in the understanding of the disease, the development of coping mechanisms, and the treatment of any underlying personal problems that might worsen symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps people recognise and change negative thought patterns and actions which cause mood swings. CBT can significantly lessen the effects of bipolar symptoms by concentrating on present issues and identifying feasible solutions.

Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT)

The goal of IPSRT is to stabilise routines, like eating and sleeping schedules, as this can aid in the management of mood fluctuations. It addresses interpersonal problems that might affect mood and highlights the significance of consistent daily routines.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can have a considerable effect on bipolar disorder management, enhancing overall well-being in addition to medication and therapy. These adjustments can reduce the extent and intensity of mood swings and also promote stability.

Routine and Sleep

It’s necessary to keep a regular schedule and practice proper sleep hygiene. Regular sleep schedules help maintain mood stability because irregular sleep patterns can lead to mood episodes. Adequate sleep is crucial for preserving emotional balance and general health.

Diet and Exercise

Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help control symptoms and promote general well-being. Good eating practices supply the nutrients the brain needs to function, and exercise releases endorphins, which have the power to lower stress and stabilise mood.

Conclusion

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental condition indicated by extreme mood swings, including manic, hypomanic, depressive, and mixed episodes. Many different contributing factors cause the disorder, including biological, environmental, and genetic ones. Medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications are often components of effective management, which can help people safeguard their emotional health and improve their quality of life.

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