Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition categorized under the mood disorder together with major depressive disorder and others. Generally, bipolar disorder in layman terms means having two different poles of mood alternatively like a roller coaster for a period of time. Sometimes, you might feel you are on cloud 9 or euphoric and at times very gloomy and depressed.
There are two types of bipolar disorder namely Bipolar I and Bipolar II. To make a diagnosis of Bipolar I, you need to have at least one manic episode, while for Bipolar II, you need to have at least one hypomanic and one depressive episode. However, it does not mean Bipolar I is more severe than the other. It is two separate diagnoses with slightly different features.
These alternating episodes has some symptoms free episodes in between where you will feel completely normal and the cycle then continues for months or years,
Signs of mania and hypomania
- Having abnormally elevated, expansive or irritable mood with persistently increased goal directed activity or energy and present for most of the days.
- During this period of time, you will also experience other symptoms as below which are present to a significant degree.
- Increased self esteem or feeling grandiose about one self
- Decreased need of sleep, instead does house chores or other energetic activities
- Becomes more talkative than usual
- Always have running ideas in mind
- Gets distracted easily than before
- Increase in goal directed activity either socially, at work, school or sexually)
- Buying spree, sexual indiscretions or foolish investments that bring painful consequences.
- All these signs and symptoms will usually cause impairment to your social and occupational functioning.
The major difference between mania and hypomania is the duration. In manic episodes, you’ll have these symptoms for at least 7 days while in hypomanic episodes, you’ll have them for at least 4 days.
Signs of depressive episode
To diagnose a major depressive episode, you need to have at least 5 out of 9 symptoms for at least 14 days, where one of the symptoms has to be consistent depressed mood or loss of interest.
- Depressed mood for most of the days in a 2 week period
- Loss of interest in activities you enjoyed before
- Significant loss of weight (more than 5% of your previous body weight) or decrease in appetite
- Having difficulty in sleeping or sleeping too much
- Being restless or being slowed down
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
- Feeling of worthlessness or excessive inappropriate guilt
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisive nearly every day in a 2 weeks period.
- Recurrent thoughts of death or recurrent suicidal planning and attempts.
These symptoms of mania, hypomania and depression are not necessarily complained by patients themselves. Quite often, they are observed by people close to you who notice the changes to your mood and personality for a time.
Bipolar disorder is diagnosed clinically by a psychiatry, but at times some rating scales like the Young Mania Rating Scale, Beck Depression scale and others are used to help in the diagnosis and monitor the progress of illness after starting treatment.
Treatment of bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder can be treated both pharmacologically and psychologically. Mood stabilizers like lithium, anticonvulsants and newer generations of antipsychotics are commonly used in practice as monotherapy or combined therapy.
Apart from medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal rhythm therapy and psychoeducation are given together by psychiatrists to help heal bipolar patients. Do visit a doctor if you or anyone close to you notices some major changes in your mood as stated above before it is too late. Your mental health is as equally important as physical health.