Bipolar Disorder Symptoms, Causes and Effects
According to information published by the Johns Hopkins health library, approximately 5.7 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder. Many people only have a surface understanding of the disorder that is garnered from television and articles in popular publications. The best way to help yourself or someone you know who suffers from the condition is to understand bipolar disorder symptoms, causes and effects, as well as treatment options.
What Are the Types of Bipolar Disorders?
Bipolar disorder involves cyclical episodes of depression and mania, and it is considered to be a lifelong affliction. The type of disorder diagnosed depends on the severity of mood swings and how they present.
Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I disorder is referred to as manic depression. Manic depression presents differently for each individual, but the diagnosis requires a history of at least one manic episode. A manic episode involves a period of time in which emotions are elevated in a positive direction, often for no particular reason. Brief elation at a piece of good news is not manic, but a few weeks of that feeling could indicate mania.
Individuals with bipolar I often spiral into depression following episodes of mania. Depression can wreak havoc on your life and even result in suicidal thoughts. Between cycles, individuals who suffer from bipolar I disorder usually lead fairly normal lives.
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Bipolar II Disorder
Bipolar II disorder is milder in presentation than bipolar I. Individuals suffering from bipolar II will experience ups and downs but do not reach full-blown mania. Although it is difficult to deal with, bipolar II disorder can be easier to manage than bipolar I, particularly because an individual with bipolar II is able to maintain control during hypomanic episodes. Perhaps the most dangerous part of bipolar II disorder for many individuals is the depression, which can last for a long time in the absence of treatment.
Cyclothymia is an even milder mood disorder and considered to be a bipolar-like affliction. Ups and downs for individuals with cyclothymia never reach the extremes seen with bipolar patients. The hypomanic episodes displayed by someone with cyclothymia can be helpful in achieving targeted goals, but some individuals with this disorder also suffer from mild chronic depression that can interfere with lifestyle or relationships. According to statistics, around 1 percent of people in the United States suffer from cyclothymia.
Substance-Induced Mood Disorders
Bipolar-related symptoms are sometimes associated with substance abuse. Alcohol, cocaine, opioids, sedatives, and other substances can cause depression or euphoria and mania. When you’re seeking treatment for bipolar-related symptoms, it’s important to divulge information about any substances you are taking, because this helps medical professionals understand how to provide treatment.
What Causes Manic Depression?
The root cause of bipolar disorder isn’t fully understood by medical professionals, although most agree that genetics play an important role. In fact, approximately two-thirds of individuals who have both a mother and father with the disorder will also present with the condition. Medical experts have also isolated certain chemicals in the brain that are believed to play a role in the chemical imbalance that causes mood swings. Those chemicals are serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. According to researchers, if the levels of these chemicals are out of balance in your body, it could lead to the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder.
What Are the Signs of Bipolar Disorder?
Depending on whether an individual is in a manic or a depressive state, signs of the disorder may be completely different.
Emotional Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Emotional symptoms of bipolar disorder help you recognize if a person is suffering from the condition; they can also help you understand what part of a cycle an individual is in. Emotional symptoms associated with the manic phase include:
- Feelings of invincibility
- Ongoing happiness despite circumstances
Emotional symptoms associated with depressive phases include:
- Feelings of emptiness
Physical Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Physical symptoms of bipolar disorder usually relate to behavior. Symptoms associated with manic phases could include distraction, inability to concentrate, rapid speech, and restlessness. The person may also launch new projects and participate in risky activities. Depressive phases could manifest as a lack of interest in hobbies or other previously enjoyed activities, fatigue, difficulty with concentration and memory, a change in sleep or eating habits, and talking about suicide.
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Manic Depression
Short-term effects of manic depression include an inability to perform a job, damage to social and familial relationships, and loss of self-confidence. Over time, individuals with bipolar disorder can experience more frequent episodes, especially when the condition is not treated. Long-term effects include an inability to maintain employment, inability to perform basic personal care activities, becoming lost in delusional worlds, loss of marriage or other relationships, and even loss of life.
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Is There a Test or Self-Assessment I Can Do?
Online self-assessment tests are available for those who believe they are suffering from bipolar disorder. While such tests can be a good starting point when you’re seeking information about mental health issues, online tests are not a substitute for evaluation by a healthcare professional. Doctors and therapists use industry-approved tests, including lab work, to diagnosis bipolar disorder. Make sure you seek professional assistance with your mental health diagnosis.
Bipolar Medication: Mood-Stabilizing Drug Options
Because bipolar disorder is caused by chemical imbalances within the body, treatment often includes mood-stabilizing drugs.
Bipolar Drugs: Possible Options
Some drugs that are used to treat bipolar disorder include lithium, antipsychotics such as Seroquel or Clozaril, antidepressants such as Prozac, and benzodiazepines like Xanax. Medication use will depend on your individual symptoms, how the disorder presents, and your overall health situation.
Medication Side Effects
All the medications used to treat bipolar disorder have possible side effects, from physical ones such as nausea, fatigue and headache, to mental or emotional ones such as racing thoughts or sadness. It’s important to communicate with healthcare professionals when you begin a new medicine. Doctors may need to attempt different dosages in order to find the right balance for your body.
Mood-Stabilizing Drug Addiction, Dependence and Withdrawal
Medications such as lithium don’t come with a high risk of addiction, although benzodiazepines and other bipolar-related medications may be addictive for some users. Even lithium can cause health risks for users who stop taking it suddenly, so it’s important to follow dosage requirements and work with your doctor to taper medication use slowly when transitioning off a product or moving to a new product.
To avoid medication overdose, follow all instructions provided by your doctor and pharmacy. If you feel like your medicine isn’t working, don’t increase your dosage; talk to your doctor regarding any medication changes. Don’t double up on a dose if you forget to take your medicine unless doing so is part of the pharmacy instructions.
Depression and Bipolar Disorder
Depression within a bipolar disorder can be dangerous. Not only are people suffering from bipolar-related depression hit with intense feelings of sorrow, guilt and worthlessness, but they also may reach a point where they act out on these feelings. They may lash out emotionally, cause physical damage to themselves, and engage in overall destructive behavior. It’s important to seek treatment, no matter what state of the disorder you are in. Call for more information.
Dual Diagnosis: Addiction and Mood-Related Problems
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, substance abuse and bipolar disorder are a common dual diagnosis. Professionals don’t completely understand the link between the two issues, but some causal factors are known. The highs and lows of bipolar disorder can drive someone to abuse drugs or alcohol. At the same time, substance abuse can worsen the symptoms of mood-related problems. It’s important to be up front with mental health professionals about substance abuse, because the involvement of drugs or alcohol will impact your course of treatment.