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Understanding Mental Disorder

Bipolar Disorder

Overview of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a type of mood disorder, which affects around one in every 100 adults in the UK. It is also known as manic-depressive disorder. This disorder is characterised by states of elation, which is called mania, as well as depression. Individuals with bipolar disorder often experience unexpected and extreme shifts in mood, energy levels, thinking, and behaviour.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Have you recently experienced extreme euphoria, delusions, insomnia, feelings of superiority or an exaggerated sense of your power, importance, or knowledge? Have you had racing ideas, or acted in very reckless and risky ways? Have you experienced the former symptoms, as well as states of exhaustion and difficulty getting out of bed in the morning to face the day? Have you experienced states of severe sadness, low-self esteem, or feelings of guilt or suicide? If this relates to you, and you have been experiencing these symptoms for a few weeks, you may be suffering from bipolar disorder and should seek professional help. It is extremely important to seek support if your symptoms are not improving, if your state has affected your everyday quality of life, or if you are having any thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

What causes Bipolar Disorder?

In bipolar disorder, cycles of mania and depression can vary greatly across individuals. These states can last anywhere from a couple of days to several months, and can shift unpredictably. There are different diagnoses of bipolar disorder, depending on the pattern and severity of symptoms. Bipolar I applies to those who generally experience severe manic episodes, with shorter depressive periods. Bipolar II applies to those who tend to experience longer states of depression, and shorter manic episodes. Cyclothymia is a milder form of bipolar disorder, where extreme moods and swings are less obvious, but still have a serious impact on one’s everyday life. While the exact cause of bipolar disorder is not known, it is most likely the result of several interacting factors. Bipolar disorder is often hereditary, and may be linked to a specific gene. Differing brain structure and function may also contribute to the onset of bipolar disorder, and many of the observable symptoms. It is very common for those with mood disorders to use substances to cope with their condition. Alcohol and drug abuse can exacerbate the severity and symptoms of bipolar disorder, which can lead to an ongoing downward spiral.

Treating Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can be effectively treated in various ways. Types of treatment often depend on the presentation and severity of the disorder. Medications called mood stabilisers can be taken to prevent the extreme episodes of mania and depression. These must be taken every day, and are a long-term option for treatment. Alternatively, medications can be taken to treat the symptoms of the manic or depressive states only when they occur. Psychological treatment, such as psychotherapy, can also be effective in treating the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Techniques often include learning to recognise the triggers and signs of episodes, in order to alter response patterns, prevent the onset of extreme mood states, and thus reduce symptoms. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common type of psychotherapy in the treatment of depressive states of bipolar disorder. Typical CBT sessions involve talking through one’s problems with a certified clinician, with the aim of understanding how one’s own thoughts impact one’s negative emotions and behaviours. Patient and clinician then work together to alter these negative thought patterns and behaviours, in order to improve one’s feelings and experiences.

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