Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability worldwide according to the World Health Organization. In any given year, 5.7 million adults in America are living with this condition. It affects women and men equally and is found in all races, ages, and ethnic groups. According to a National Institute of Mental Health study, one percent of age 14 to 18-year-olds met the criteria for this illness.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
Also called manic-depressive illness, this is a serious brain illness characterized by erratic changes in mood. Mood changes are referred to as “episodes” and can be manic, depressive, or mixed, which has aspects of both. During a phase called mania, patients feel excessively happy, or euphoric, and are overly active, and during the depression phase, they feel sad, sluggish, and are less active. Symptoms of bipolar disorder often last for days and sometime weeks. During a manic episode, an individual may feel jumpy, become irritable, have difficulty sleeping, and engage in risky behavior. When in a depressive episode, the person may be withdrawn, forgetful, feel worried, have difficulty concentrating, and feel tired. These symptoms are much stronger than the typical highs and lows in mood that most people experience. Symptoms can make it difficult to work or develop relationships and they can even be dangerous.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
There is currently no cure for bipolar disorder but treatment is available and can be very effective. Treatment for bipolar disorder typically addresses behavior problems and mood changes. It is most effective when used on an ongoing basis. Medication is a common treatment and patient responses to medication determine the type prescribed. Medication can cause side effects but patients should not stop taking them without supervision. It can be dangerous to stop medication suddenly and for bipolar patients, this can worsen symptoms.
Psychotherapy, commonly called talk therapy, is another form of complementary treatment for bipolar disorder. Through therapy, bipolar patients can learn how to change their behaviors to better manage their lives and improve their relationships. Some patients benefit from including family members in therapy sessions
Newer therapies are also being explored as treatment for bipolar disorder.
Article content, © Kira Stein, MD, APC. | West Coast Life Center