Bipolar disorder is a medical condition characterized by severe shifts in mood ranging from four different episodes, including mania, hypomania (a less severe form of mania), depression and mixed episodes, or a combination of depression and mania. Bipolar disorder is much more complicated and grave than dealing with the ups and downs of normal life. Although the cause is unknown, certain risk factors may include biochemistry changes in the brain, family history, and environmental factors such as severe stress. Bipolar disorder requires lifelong treatment and maintenance, which may cause adverse long-term effects on the body.
10. Living With Bipolar Disorder
Severe depressive and manic episodes may lead to changes in the mind and body. These may include a decreased amount of energy, suicidal thoughts or tendencies, the inability to concentrate or make decisions, irritation, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, low self-esteem, and feeling helpless or hopeless for long periods. Bipolar disorder may cause the person affected to avoid social situations, cut off personal relationships and may have trouble keeping a job due to severe manic episodes.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be broken down into mania and depressive symptoms. Mania symptoms include poor judgment, exaggerated happiness, inability to concentrate for long periods, insomnia, low self-esteem, increased sexual, social or work activity, and racing thoughts. Depression may include thoughts of suicide, fatigue, loss of interest in activities, appetite changes, inability to make decisions, feelings of guilt, sadness, or worthiness, changes in sleep patterns, and irritability accompanied by a sedentary behavior.
8. Types Of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is classified by the severity of symptoms as bipolar disorder I, bipolar disorder II and cyclothymic disorder. Patients can be categorized as more than one of each category or they may either progress or digress between phases. Some medical professionals believe each category has distinct symptoms and biologic factors that would allow them to be categorized as separate disorders. Only a medical professional can accurately diagnose the type of group a person with bipolar disorder has. Each person’s symptoms are unique and may last up to several months at a time.
7. Bipolar Disorder I
Bipolar disorder I occurs when at least one manic or mixed episode characterized by both depression and mania at the same time occur, or when one or more depressive episodes last more than seven days. Patients with bipolar disorder I who do not seek treatment will average four episodes of severe mood swings each year. These may include euphoria and irritability with depressive symptoms lasting anywhere from six to twelve months. Behavioral patterns to look out for include irresponsible sexual behavior, excessive shopping, or sudden traveling.
6. Bipolar Disorder II
Bipolar disorder II occurs when significant depressive symptoms accompanied by occasional hypomania are present for at least four days. Patients with bipolar disorder II can remain fully functional between episodes and do not experience mixed or manic episodes like the bipolar disorder I group. However, patients with bipolar disorder II have significantly more depressive symptoms and shorter periods of being well in between. People with bipolar disorder II are at an increased risk of suicide as their symptoms are chronic and long-term with little periods of remission.
5. Cyclothymic Disorder
Cyclothymic disorder occurs when symptoms of bipolar disorder are not as severe as the other two categories, but the condition is chronic or lasts at least two years with episodes lasting more than two months. Cyclothymic disorder can be thought of as a precursor to being diagnosed with a full-blown bipolar disorder. The most common symptom is hypomania, which is a less severe version of depressive and manic episodes that occur in more severe cases. Other types of bipolar disorder include Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) and Bipolar Disorder With Rapid Cycling.
The cause of bipolar disorder is unknown; however, doctors believe it is due to a combination of environmental, genetic and biochemical factors. Chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters associated with bipolar disorder include norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, otherwise known as the “feel good” hormones. Several chromosomes have been linked to bipolar disorder, and research indicates that genetic factors may also increase the risk. Environmental factors such as life stress or emotional trauma may also play a role.
3. Physical Long-Term Effects
People who suffer from bipolar disorder are at an increased risk of physical conditions or diseases, including migraines, heart disease, chronic pain, obesity, diabetes, and thyroid disease. Bipolar disorder also increases the risk of anxiety disorders and the abuse of drugs and alcohol, which is linked to many health problems such as liver disease, hypothyroidism, and panic attacks. Some studies have shown that people with bipolar disorder are at an increased risk of developing dementia later in life; however, more research needs to be done before a permanent link between the two is established.
2. Treatment And Side Effects Of Mood Stabilizers
One of the most commonly prescribed medications for bipolar disorder is a mood stabilizer known as lithium, which has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and mania within two weeks. However, lithium comes with many side effects including loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, confusion or sedation, eye pain, visual changes, frequent urination, tremors in the hands, and excessive thirst. Long-term use of lithium has been linked to kidney problems. According to researchers at the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, alternatives to lithium should be utilized for bipolar treatment due to concern over the safety of the patient.
1. Other Medications
Medications other than lithium may also be prescribed for bipolar disorder. These include antipsychotic drugs, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, or a combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs. Side effects of antipsychotic drugs include sedation, weight gain, increased lipid levels in the blood, sore throat, dry mouth, muscle spasms, tremors and involuntary movements. These unwanted side effects might cause a person to want to stop taking their drugs; however, consulting with a medical professional before stopping any medication is always recommended.