Also known as biopolar affective disorder and formerly known as manic depression, involves extreme mood swings from mania, a form of euphoria or feeling like one has a lot of energy, to deep depression. There are different types of bipolar disorder.
Symptoms of mania can include:
- racing thoughts and ideas, quicker speech than usual
- poor decision making
- feeling positive and/or happy even if things are not going well for you.
- being more irritable than normal
- feeling much better about yourself than usual
- picking arguments, being aggressive or pushy
- feeling like you have more energy
- doing uncharacteristic things which may cause problems, such as using drugs or alcohol, overspending sprees, making unwise business decisions, being sexually promiscuous
- feeling you can do much more than you realistically can
- being much more out-going or social than usual
- needing little sleep
Symptoms of depression can include:
- low mood
- feeling hopeless or negative
- irritability or restlessness
- feeling unworthy or helpless
- being less interested in things you normally like doing or enjoying them less
- difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- feeling tired, lethargic or lacking in energy
- oversleeping or finding it difficult to get to sleep
- lack of appetite and/or losing or gaining weight when you do not mean to
- thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
Some people also have psychotic symptoms during severe episodes of mania or depression.
Bipolar disorder has no simple cause, but there is strong evidence that it is associated with changes to various brain chemicals. The precise way in which this happens is not yet known. It may be triggered by the stress of everyday life or a traumatic event or, in rare cases, physical trauma such as a head injury.
Everyone has variations in their mood, but in bipolar disorder these changes can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life. You may feel that your high and low moods are extreme, and that swings in your mood are overwhelming.
Bipolar disorder is diagnosed by a psychiatrist who does a full psychiatric assessment.
There are different medications that can help treat mania and they are often called mood stabilisers. Doctors may also prescribe antidepressants to treat depressive symptoms but, because antidepressants on their own can cause mania, should also prescribe antimanic medication.
Psychosocial treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or family therapy, in addition to medication, can help to manage symptoms.
Further information can be found on:
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