Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression) is a mood disorder which causes severe shifts in a person’s mood characterised by either an extreme high (mania) or an extreme low (depression) and very often periods of normal mood in between.
Everyone experiences mood changes in daily life, but in Bipolar Disorder these changes are very severe and may last weeks or months and can affect a person’s job, school performance and relationships.
Bipolar Disorder can be treated and people with this illness can lead productive lives, however people who suffer from this illness and sometimes doctors who treat them do not recognise the early warning symptoms leading to a delay in getting the right kind of help.
Prolonged periods of extreme sadness, low energy levels, agitation, loss of confidence, feeling useless inadequate and hopeless, negative thinking patterns, loss of interest and enjoyment , despair and suicidal thoughts.
Elation, anger, high energy levels , needing less sleep, over activity, racing thoughts, making unrealistic plans, spending lots of money, and increased sex drive
There are several types of Bipolar Disorder:
This is the classic form of the illness characterised by the occurrence of at least one manic episode which can be followed by an episode of depression. Some people have only manic episodes.
Where you have more than one episode of depression alternating with mild episodes of Mania called Hypomania.
In some people the mood fluctuates rapidly from depression to mania or hypomania with little stability in between. If a person has more than 4 episodes of mood swings in an year then it is likely that the person has a rapid cycling disorder.
About 1% of those over 18 or above in a given year has symptoms of a bipolar disorder. Symptoms usually start in late adolescence or early adult life, though there could also be peeks in mid and late life.. There is no single cause. Genes, hormones, brain chemicals all can play a part. Stress, social factors, sleep deprivation, substance misuse can all act as triggers.
Early recognition of symptoms is the key to treatment. Therefore it is important to have a complete assessment by a psychiatrist with experience in treating Bipolar Illness. A combination of medication and talking treatment is generally needed some people may need to be admitted to hospital for treatment. It is important to learn to reduce relapse by using self help s treatments such as mood monitoring, reducing stress, early recognition of relapsing symptoms and having a good work life balance.
Looking after someone with a Bipolar illness is not easy. When the person is depressed they see everything in a negative way and a person is high they do not believe they are ill, listen to them and be patient and offer support. It is important to look after yourself as well and a carer may also benefit from their own support from a professional