Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a form of mental illness that is distinguishable by extreme mood shifts. It’s actually pretty common, with 3 million people in the UK living with the disorder – that equates to around 1 in 50 people. It’s one of the UK’s most common long-term conditions – it’s more than twice as common as dementia, epilepsy, autism, rheumatoid arthritis and learning disabilities. First signs of bipolar disorder often develop between the ages of 15 and 19, although it can occur at any age.
Those who suffer with bipolar disorder tend to experience feelings of extreme joy, in episodes that are referred to as mania. They can then also experience periods of depression. People who are bipolar typically find it difficult to go about their daily life or maintain relationships. Periods of depression as a result of bipolar disorder last a minimum of two weeks, and a manic episode can last for several days or weeks. These mood shifts can be rare in some people, and others with experience them several times a year.
What are the symptoms?
There are three main symptoms of bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, and depression. An episode of mania can make the person feel very excited, joyful, impulsive and full of energy. Those experiencing an episode may partake in spending sprees, unprotected sex, substance abuse. They also might not feel like eating or sleeping, talk very quickly or become annoyed easily. Hypomania is a bit different as it’s not as severe as manic – it might not result in issues at work or in relationships, but those experiencing it will still notice mood shifts. During depressive episodes, the main symptoms are a deep sadness, feeling of hopelessness, lack of energy, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, too little or too much sleep, suicidal thoughts.
There are three main types of the disorder: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia.
Bipolar I means that the sufferer has had at least one manic episode. It’s common to experience hypomania or a major depressive episode both before and after the mania.
Bipolar II is defined by an experience of one major depressive episode that carries on for at least two weeks. Those with this type of bipolar also have a minimum of one hypomanic episode lasting around four days. It tends to be more prevalent in women.
Lastly, cyclothymia involves episodes of hypomanic and depression – they are shorter and less severe than the symptoms caused bu the other two types of bipolar. The majority of people experiencing this form typically experience a month or two at a time where their moods are stable.
So why do some people suffer with bipolar disorder?
Long story short, experts aren’t entirely sure. They have however identified possible causes which include: genetics, your brain structure or a chemical imbalance, and environmental factors such as extreme stress, trauma, physical illness.
There are a number of treatments that can help to manage symptoms of bipolar disorder. Medications such as mood stabilisers, antipsychotics, antidepressant-antipsychotics, and benzodiazepines have had successful results. Talking therapies have also been effective in treating this disorder. These include CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), Psychoeducation, and Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy. There are lifestyle changes that can help to manage symptoms too such as regular exercise, planning activities you enjoy, improving your diet and getting more quality sleep.
If you are suffering from bipolar disorder, get in touch with Dalton Wise and we will work with you to make positive life changes and manage the symptoms effectively.
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