Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is an illness involving one or more episodes of serious mania and depression. The illness causes a person's mood to swing from excessively "high" and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, with periods of a normal mood in between. More than 2 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. Bipolar disorder can be extremely distressing and disruptive for those who have this disease, their spouses, family members, friends and employers, but bipolar disorder is treatable. The combination of medications and psychotherapy helps the vast majority of people return to productive, fulfilling lives.
What causes bipolar disorder?
The presence of bipolar disorder indicates a biochemical imbalance which alters a person's moods. This imbalance is thought to be caused by irregular hormone production or a problem with certain chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, that act as messengers to our nerve cells.
What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?
Symptoms of Mania
Bipolar disorder is often difficult to recognize and diagnose. It causes a person to have a high level of energy, unrealistically expansive thoughts or ideas, and impulsive or reckless behavior. These symptoms may feel good to a person, which may lead to denial that there is a problem.
Another reason bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose is that its symptoms may appear to be part of another illness or attributed to other problems such as substance abuse, poor school performance or trouble in the workplace.
Symptoms of Depression
- Excessive energy, activity, restlessness, racing thoughts and rapid talking
- Denial that anything is wrong
- Extreme "high" or euphoric feelings - a person may feel "on top of the world" and nothing, including bad news or tragic events, can change this "happiness."
- Easily irritated or distracted.
- Decreased need for sleep - an individual may last for days with little or no sleep without feeling tired.
- Unrealistic beliefs in one's ability and powers - a person may experience feelings of exaggerated confidence or unwarranted optimism. This can lead to over ambitious work plans and the belief that nothing can stop him or her from accomplishing any task.
- Uncharacteristically poor judgment - a person may make poor decisions which may lead to unrealistic involvement in activities, meetings and deadlines, reckless driving, spending sprees and foolish business ventures.
- Sustained period of behavior that is different from usual - a person may dress and/or act differently than he or she usually does, become a collector of various items, become indifferent to personal grooming, become obsessed with writing or experience delusions.
- Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol or sleeping medications
- Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior - a person may become enraged or paranoid if his or her grand ideas are stopped or excessive social plans are refused.
Some people experience periods of normal mood and behavior following a manic phase, however, the depressive phase will eventually appear. Symptoms of depression include:
- Persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
- Sleeping too much or too little, middle-of-the-night or early morning waking
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
- Irritability or restlessness
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions.
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Persistent physical symptoms that don't respond to treatment (such as chronic pain or digestive disorders)
- Thoughts of death or suicide, including suicide attempts
- Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
Treatment is critical for recovery. Professionals at Laureate use a combination of medication, professional counseling and support from family, friends and peers to help individuals with bipolar disorder stabilize their emotions and behavior.
Support and self-help groups are also an invaluable resource for learning coping skills, feeling acceptance and avoiding social isolation. It is recommended that friends and family should join a support group to better understand the illness so they can continue to offer encouragement and support to their loves ones.
(Content adapted from the National Mental Health Association, Facts About Bipolar Disorder )
Learn More About Bipolar Disorder Services at Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital
Please call the Outpatient Clinic with questions, Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 918-491-3700. Laureate Hospital is available 24 hours/7 days for all emergencies at 918-481-4000.