We can all experience emotional ups and downs.
However, when this instability runs from one extreme to the other, leading to problems sleeping, thinking and concentrating, preventing daily tasks from being carried out and even increasing the risk of suicide, it may be bipolar disorder. Find out here what this disorder is, and what its causes, symptoms and treatments are.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression or manic depression, is a mental disorder that can be chronic or episodic. This means that it can occur occasionally or at irregular intervals.
It is characterized by causing unusual, often extreme, and fluctuating changes in mood, concentration, physical ability, and energy levels.
What is the cause of bipolar disorder?
Currently, the exact cause or causes of bipolar disorder are unknown, however, it is believed that different factors may be involved:
- biological: Certain physical changes in the brain are linked to bipolar disorder.
- genetics: Bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a first-degree relative (siblings, parents) with this disease.
- Others: Periods of high stress or alcohol or drug abuse can also be associated with bipolar disorder.
what are the symptoms
The symptoms of bipolar disorder are various and depend on the type of episode that occurs:
- Low self-esteem.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Difficulty making decisions or concentrating.
- Fatigue or lack of energy.
- Loss of interest or the ability to feel pleasure in all or many activities.
- trouble remembering
- Feeling of sadness.
- Eating disorders (causing weight loss or gain).
- Tendency to isolate and recurrent thoughts about death or suicide.
Manic or hypomanic episodes
Although they are different types of episodes, they have the same symptoms, except that mania is more serious than hypomania and causes more noticeable problems in public settings, such as work, school or other social activities:
- Abnormal episodes of optimism, nervousness or tension.
- Euphoria: exaggerated feeling of well-being and self-confidence.
- Unusual talkativeness.
- Increased levels of activity, energy, or agitation.
- Less need for sleep.
- Making poor decisions, such as compulsive shopping, risky sex, or foolish investments.
- How can emotions be controlled?
In turn, there are three main types of bipolar disorder:
- Bipolar I disorder: Defined by manic episodes that last at least seven days or when symptoms are so severe that hospital care is needed. Separate depressive episodes also occur, usually lasting at least two weeks. Episodes of mood disturbances with mixed features (depressive and manic symptoms at the same time) may occur.
- bipolar II disorder: Defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the extreme manic episodes described above. While the manic episodes of Bipolar I Disorder can be severe and dangerous, people with Bipolar II Disorder can be depressed for long periods of time, which can lead to significant mental decline.
- Cyclothymic disorder: Also called cyclothymia, is defined by persistent hypomanic and depressive symptoms that are not severe enough or last long enough to qualify as hypomanic or depressive episodes. Signs typically occur for at least two years in adults and one year in children or adolescents.
- More conditions: Some symptoms of bipolar disorder are similar to those of other illnesses, leading to misdiagnosis. In addition, many people with bipolar disorder may have other mental health conditions, such as psychosis, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, or eating disorders such as binge eating or bulimia.
How Bipolar Disorder Is Diagnosed
It is important to consult a health professional if any of the symptoms developed above occur. To determine if it is indeed bipolar disorder, and to rule out other conditions, the doctor may resort to:
- Psychiatric evaluation and psychological self-assessment or questionnaire.
- Physical examination and laboratory analysis.
- Mood records.
- Compare the symptoms presented with the criteria for bipolar disorder and related disorders.
What treatments are there for bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, so the treatment recommended by a health professional will be aimed at controlling the symptoms it causes. The most common options are:
- Medicines: The most common types prescribed are mood stabilizers (such as lithium) and atypical antipsychotics (such as Clozapine), antidepressants, antidepressant-antipsychotics (such as Symbyax), or anti-anxiety medications (such as benzodiazepines). Some patients may need to try multiple drugs and work with their doctor to find the best option for them.
- Psychotherapy: Also called “talk therapy,” this is a term used for a variety of treatment techniques that seek to help a person identify and modify problematic emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. For this reason, it is often used to provide support, education, skills, and strategies to people with bipolar disorder and their families.
- Day treatment programs.
- substance abuse treatment.
- Hospitalization: this is intended for cases of dangerous behavior, suicidal thoughts or psychotic states.
In addition, certain activities have been shown to be beneficial in mitigating the symptoms of bipolar disorder, such as walking, cycling, or swimming. Experts believe this is because they promote sleep and improve cardiovascular health, while lowering the risk of depression and anxiety.
- What hobby can you do to take care of your mental health?
However, these should never work as substitutes for the treatment recommended by a professional, but rather as complements.
If bipolar disorder is not treated, it can lead to serious health problems in the long run, affecting all aspects of life:
- Relationship damage.
- Poor performance at work or school.
- Legal or financial problems.
- Problems related to alcohol and drug use.
- Suicide or suicide attempts.
- Anxiety disorders.
- Eating disorders.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Physical health problems, such as heart disease, headaches, or obesity.
In addition, people with bipolar disorder are at increased risk for other types of conditions:
Bipolar disorder cases
It is difficult to know the number of cases of bipolar disorder in the world. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 45 million people are affected by this disorder.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) highlights that bipolar disorders are an important cause of disability and mortality in Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to reports, disability due to bipolar disorder seems to adopt a subregional pattern: all the countries of continental Central America are above the country average and the regional total of 1.4%, while Canada and the United States are below the total (1.3% and 1.2%, respectively).
Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Mental Health, Mental Health America, World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).