What is bipolar disorder?

What is bipolar disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 2.3 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, a condition also known as manic depression. Those affected by the disorder often have severe mood swings ranging from feelings of hyperactivity, also known as mania, to extreme lows, including feeling of sadness and poor self-esteem similar to depression.

Bipolar I & bipolar II

Bipolar disorder falls into two diagnoses: bipolar I and bipolar II, the former exhibiting more severe symptoms than the latter. For example, a person diagnosed with bipolar I is more likely to exhibit extremely abnormal behaviors, such as outbursts in public places. Alternatively, a person diagnosed with bipolar II is likely to exhibit more socially acceptable, yet still abnormal behaviors, such as staying up all night during manic states.

Behavioral indicators

One of the more common and severe symptoms of bipolar disorder is suicidal thoughts and actions during the depression phase. Severe episodes of both mania and depression may also result in psychotic episodes and hallucinations.

In terms of behavior, bipolar disorder may cause patients to abuse alcohol or other substances, incite conflict within a relationship, and/or affect the patient's ability to perform well at school or work. Although these behaviors may not always indicate a mental illness, if coupled with other symptoms, it may be cause for concern.

Cause and treatment

With proper diagnosis and treatment of the disorder, bipolar patients can effectively eliminate mood swings and enjoy uninterrupted mental stability. The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown.

However, experts at the Mayo Clinic have noted that several factors appear to be associated with triggering bipolar symptoms. One factor can include biological differences, which result in a physical change in the brain during a bipolar episode. Other potential causes include chemical imbalances in the brain, hormone imbalances, genetic traits, and stressful or traumatic environments.

Although there is no known cure for bipolar disorder, there are several effective treatments available for the symptoms associated with the disorder. Medications such as mood stabilizers, atypical anti-psychotic medications, and antidepressants are often prescribed to patients with the disorder.

Sleeping medications and herbal supplements may also be prescribed to help patients cope with the symptoms of bipolar disorder. These treatments are usually coupled with therapy sessions with a mental health professional to help identify triggers of bipolar behavior and learn how to cope with stressful situations in a more positive way.

If you or someone you know suffers from symptoms of bipolar disorder, it's important to consult a mental health professional right away to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. In Indianapolis, consulting with an experienced psychiatrist is one way to help receive treatment for bipolar disorder.


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