Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of depression and mania or hypomania. Between the episodes, the person often has no symptoms at all and can work as usual. The disease can cause psychological distress, but with the right treatment the problems can be alleviated – often with the help of the combination of drugs, psychotherapy and education.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder often manifest for the first time during adolescence, but sometimes it is difficult to detect them early because these symptoms may initially be mistaken for some other mental illnesses.
Bipolar disorder is divided into two types. Type 1 was also previously known as manic depressive disorder.
- Bipolar disorder, type 1 – involves both depressive and manic phases
- Bipolar disorder, type 2 – depression in some situations and phases of hypomania (milder than mania).
So-called cyclothymia. It is a condition that causes milder episodes of hypomania and depression. Cyclothymia sometimes develops into bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by repeating depressive episodes interspersed with episodes of mania or hypomania. Mania means, among other things, sustained energy with elation or irritability. Sufferers tend to ignore their inhibitions, behave outrageously or even insult others, without realizing it. Hypomania has many similarities to mania, but the mood is not as intense and people can function quite normally. Symptoms can vary in different people and vary over time. Mood swings can be quick and strong and often stressful not only for the person experiencing them, but for everyone around them. Sometimes depressive and manic symptoms can occur simultaneously; these are so-called ‘mixing episodes’, with rapid shifts between depressive and manic symptoms during the same day. Some have only manic episodes, but these cases are less frequent. Intermediate periods without depression, mania or hypomania are called ‘euthymia’. Both the depressive and manic and hypomanic periods can last for weeks or months. Some people may have problems with depression for several years, which can be either clinical depression or melancholic depression.
Examples of manic symptoms:
- elevated mood
- very high energy level
- anger and irritability
- reduced need for sleep
- judgmental behavior
- increased self-confidence.
Examples of hypomanic symptoms:
- elevated mood
- more energy
- reduced need for sleep
- increased creativity.
Examples of depressive symptoms:
- depressed mood
- feeling of hopelessness or emptiness
- decreased or increased appetite
- difficulty in concentration
- increased fatigue.
Bipolar disorder can also occur simultaneously with other conditions, such as various types of anxiety, ADHD and abuse.
The word “bipolar” refers to the two states (poles) of mania and depression. In bipolar disorder, heredity plays a greater role than in clinical depression. Some factors, such as illnesses, life events, stress and difficulty sleeping, can also trigger bipolar disorder. Sometimes hypomania or mania can occur during the treatment of depression.
Children and bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder is uncommon in young children, but more common in late teens. Heredity is often a contributing factot, because the child has an increased vulnerability to the disease.
Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish symptoms of bipolar disorder from other mental illnesses, such as depression. But it is important for the child to receive help as fast as possible.
Children with bipolar disorder may show different symptoms, such as:
- concentration problems.
These symptoms are common, but children with bipolar disorder suffer more often from them than the others of the same age.
Treatment often includes medicines in combination with psycho pedagogical efforts – information and strategies for dealing with the disease.
Bipolar disorder can cause great psychological distress for both the affected and their families, as well as potentially severe social and economic losses. Therefore, it is important that the disease is treated, preferably at an early stage, to relieve the problem.
Bipolar disorder is often treated with a combination of drugs, psychotherapy and education. Medicines are used to stabilise mood swings and to prevent relapse. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that can be used in treatment. Education aims to learn to recognize and manage the symptoms of relapse.
Prevention and protection
If you already have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it is good to be actively involved in the treatment. Avoid things that previously triggered episodes and try to learn to recognize the signs of mania, hypomania or depression. Regular contacts with both psychiatrists and regular carers make it easier to detect early signs of new episodes.
Remember to take your medication in time, control your sleep habits and be more physically active. It is also good to avoid stress, alcohol and smoking.
If you feel bad and want to stop taking your medicine, it is important to discuss this with your doctor instead of adjusting the dosage by yourself.
For family members and relatives, family therapy can make it easier to defeat this disorder. There are also related associations that can provide support.
When to consult a doctor
If you suspect you have bipolar disorder, you should seek medical help – contact a doctor or a psychiatric clinic. This is also recommended if you have strong mood swings that affect your social and everyday life.
If you have thoughts of suicide, seek urgent care. Relatives who are concerned that a person wants to commit suicide should also contact health care immediately.
How APPOTEK can help
If you have suspected bipolar disorder, or if you already have a diagnosis, you should turn to a psychiatric clinic. If you or your relatives feel worried about your problems or need advice and information about bipolarity, APPOTEK we can help you.
A doctor or psychologist will make an individual assessment based on your symptoms during the care meeting. You can then be prescribed treatment or referred for further treatment to a specialist clinic. We can also offer continuous follow-up and visits to psychologists and doctors.
To detect and treat bipolar disorder, a physical examination is required in combination with a psychiatric examination.