Understanding Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a medical condition that causes dramatic shifts in mood, behavior, thinking, and energy. The mood changes associated with bipolar disorder are so severe that they interfere with the individual’s daily life. Bipolar disorder is treatable, but many people don’t recognize the symptoms of the condition. Below, you will find a detailed analysis of bipolar disorder. You will also find information on how to get help if you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from this condition.
History of the Disorder
Bipolar disorder was first recognized by Aretaeus of Cappadocia in the second century. In 1650, scientist Richard Burton wrote a book focusing on depression, a hallmark symptom of bipolar disorder. In 1854, another scientist, Jules Falret, suggested a link between chronic depression and suicide attempts. Falret’s work eventually led to the development of the term “bipolar disorder” when he distinguished between patients’ moments of heightened moods and severe depression. He also recognized that this disorder was separate from typical depression, and he found that individuals were more likely to develop the disorder if other members of their family had it.
Signs and Symptoms
Individuals with bipolar disorder experience several different types of episodes including depression, mania, and mixed episodes. During a depressive episode, the patient may feel hopeless, empty and sad. He/she may also be irritable, unable to experience pleasure, and extremely tired. During bipolar depression, patients often experience feelings of worthlessness, thoughts of suicide, and trouble concentrating. During a manic episode, the patient may feel extremely happy, or he/she may be extremely irritable. Manic patients tend to have unrealistic beliefs about their abilities and powers, they may sleep very little, and they may talk very rapidly. Patients with mania may also act recklessly, be impulsive, have delusions, or be very distractible.
There are three different types of bipolar disorder: bipolar disorder I, bipolar disorder II, and cyclothymia. In bipolar disorder I, the patient experiences mania or mixed episodes. In bipolar disorder II, the patient suffers hypomania and depression episodes. Finally, in cyclothymia, the patient suffers milder forms of hypomania and depression.
Bipolar disorder doesn’t have a specific cause. Research has shown that some individuals have a genetic predisposition for the disorder, but not all people who have this vulnerability develop the condition. Some studies of brain imaging have also shown that the brains of people with this disorder are different from normal brains. Finally, some scientists believe that abnormal thyroid function, disturbances in the circadian rhythm, and high levels of stress hormones may cause bipolar disorder.
Diagnosis and Management
Bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed through a psychological exam administered by a licensed psychiatrist. The psychiatrist may also ask the patient to track his/her moods over time to identify a pattern. After bipolar disorder is diagnosed, the patient may take medications, such as mood stabilizers or antidepressants, to help with mood swings. Patients may also participate in ongoing psychiatric care.
A good prognosis usually comes from good treatment and an accurate diagnosis. Bipolar disorder can be extremely disabling, but many patients live full lives with medication. Patients can improve their prognosis by avoiding stress, exercising regularly, and eating properly. Individuals with bipolar disorder function poorly during periods of depression and mania. Many patients with bipolar disorder also have periods of normal functioning between their manic or depressive episodes.
After a bipolar episode, 72 percent of patients return to normal functioning. However, 40 percent of those patients will have another episode in the future. Individuals don’t die from bipolar disorder itself, but they may commit suicide. One out of three people with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide during his/her lifetime.
Society and Culture
There is a stigma associated with having bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder has also been featured in several films, books, and television shows. The films “Mr. Jones” and “The Mosquito Coast” both highlighted the lives of bipolar individuals. In addition, a book by Johns Hopkins University professor Kay Jamison entitled “Toughed with Fire” detailed Jamison’s own struggles with the disorder.
How to Get or Give Help
Friends and family members with bipolar disorder need support. If you have a loved one who is suffering with the condition, try to reduce his or her stress level whenever you can and provide emotional support when necessary. Monitor your loved one’s moods and help out by warning him/her if you notice signs of relapse. If you believe that you are experiencing any symptom of bipolar disorder, contact a medical professional, such as a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist.