What Is A Bipolar Disorder? Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

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Bipolar disorder is a mental issue that results in extreme changes in one’s mood and energy. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience mania or hypomania and depression episodes, each characterized by unique changes in behavior. In a manic episode, one can feel highly irritable or energetic. Hypomania is less serious than mania and can only persist shortly. On the other hand, depressive episodes are characterized by a very low mood, lack of energy, and feelings of unworthiness. 

The intensity and period of these episodes vary from one individual to another. Some people may encounter more manic episodes, while others can undergo more depressive episodes. This condition significantly affects one’s life, from interacting with people to making decisions. 

There are various types of bipolar disorder, including bipolar I and II and cyclothymic disorder. For  more information about this, consult professionals who can help determine the type you may be suffering from. With that in mind, here are the causes, symptoms, and treatments of bipolar disorder:   

Causes

Scientists haven’t discovered the exact cause of bipolar disorder. However, they suggest that several factors enhance your risk of developing it. Some of the factors include the following:

  • Genetics

Genetics significantly increases the chances of developing bipolar disorder. A family with one or both parents having bipolar disorder has a high risk of transmitting the condition to their children. Ideally, genetics can contribute to bipolar disorder in the following ways:

  • Gene mutations: Gene mutation is the change in the DNA sequence that comprises a gene. You can inherit it from one or both of your parents, or it can happen automatically in your lifetime. Scientists have identified various genes as possibly contributing to bipolar disorder. Such genes play a key role in cellular processes like a response to stress and the control of neurotransmitters. Mutations in such genes can result in modification of the processes, which may affect brain function and increase the probability of developing bipolar disorder. 
  • Inherited traits: Parents can pass down genetic variations that raise their children’s risk of developing this condition. As outlined above, various genes increase the risk of developing a disorder, and a variation in one or more of the genes can impact the brain’s ability to control mood, behavior, and energy, resulting in the development of bipolar disorder. Additionally, inherited traits can combine with environmental factors to enhance the risk of developing the disorder.
  • Epigenetics: This is the change in gene expression that doesn’t result from altering the DNA sequence itself. Epigenetics can modify genes’ expression in stress response or mood control, increasing the chances of developing bipolar disorder. 

Understanding the role of genetics in contributing to bipolar disorder can help in the treatment planning process. 

  • Biological Abnormalities

Several biological abnormalities, such as changes in the functioning of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, are linked to bipolar disorder. Low serotonin levels trigger depressive symptoms, while unusual levels of dopamine trigger manic symptoms. 

  • Environmental Factors

Several environmental factors increase the chances of one developing bipolar disorder. Some factors include the following:

Childhood trauma: Neglect and physical, sexual, or emotional abuse significantly influence a child’s developing brain and may interrupt the usual neurodevelopment procedures. Such interruptions can result in the alteration of the brain’s system and function. For instance, it can lead to changes in the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters, which are essential in mood regulation, thus increasing the risk of developing this disorder. Additionally, childhood traumas can result in other mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, that are chief contributors to this condition. 

Sleep disturbances: Lack of or irregular sleep patterns can change brain function and increase the likelihood of developing bipolar disorder. This is especially true for people with a genetic inclination to the disorder. Sleep disturbances can also impact mood control and the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a process that occurs naturally and internally and regulates the sleep-wake sequence. A change in this rhythm can lead to the occurrence or deterioration of bipolar disorder symptoms. 

Drug abuse: Substance abuse can significantly impact the brain and increase the risk of developing the condition. Some drugs, like cocaine, can imitate the symptoms of bipolar disorder by leading to euphoria and generating mood swings. Drug abuse may not directly cause bipolar but can trigger the condition in predisposed persons and intensify the symptoms.  

Medications: Some medicines, like antidepressants, increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder. Such medications function by alleviating the level of various neurotransmitters in the brain, which can increase the symptoms of depression.

These factors can be preventable. For instance, you can address traumatic experiences, ensure sufficient sleep, or avoid drug abuse. 

Symptoms 

The symptoms of bipolar disorder vary from one individual to another. Some people may experience highs and lows within a short period, while others over a long period or throughout their lifetime. The symptoms of the two phases are:

Depressive Symptoms

  • Loss of interest in your favorite activities
  • Loss of memory 
  • Being suicidal
  • Talking slowly than usual
  • Feeling useless or hopeless
  • Retreating from family and friendly
  • Lack of energy or getting fatigued
  • Loss of appetite or eating too much
  • Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Low mood
  • Severe sadness
  • Being anxious about minor problems
  • Extreme weight loss or gain

Mania Symptoms

Some signs and symptoms in this phase are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack or reduced need for sleep
  • Abnormal talkativeness
  • Enhanced sexual urge
  • Hallucinating
  • Feeling extremely powerful
  • Distractibility and low attention
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling extremely happy
  • Participating in risky behaviors like drug abuse 
  • Racing thoughts
  • Making magnificent and unachievable goals
  • Being easily irritated
  • Making poor decisions like spending a lot of money once
  • Changing topics quickly in conversations 

Mostly, symptoms of bipolar disorder appear in adulthood, but it can sometimes emerge in children. Kids with this condition tend to have contradicting behavior toward other children. For instance, their behavior can influence their performance in school.

Treatment

Bipolar disorder treatment aims to stabilize a person’s mood, lower the intensity of the symptoms, and prevent subsequent episodes. It helps an individual avoid the adverse effects of untreated bipolar disorder, like suicidal thoughts or drug abuse, and improves the quality of life. Effective treatment can be attained through the combination of the following: 

  • Medications

Different medications are used in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Doctors prescribe the types and doses of the drugs depending on an individual’s symptoms. Some common medications include the following:

  • Mood stabilizers: The role of these drugs is to stop depressive or manic episodes and stabilize a person’s mood. Examples of mood-stabilizing drugs are lithium, anticonvulsants, valproic acid, and others. 
  •  Benzodiazepines: These drugs include clonazepam, diazepam, and lorazepam and are used to cure insomnia and anxiety in individuals with bipolar disorder. They function by slowing down the body and brain function. Some side effects are dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion. 
  • Antidepressants: These are mostly used to treat depression. However, they have a contradictory effect as they can trigger manic episodes, particularly in people with a history of the condition. For this reason, doctors mostly combine antidepressants with mood stabilizers. Therefore, it’d be best to enlist the help of a healthcare professional before deciding to take these medications. 
  • Antipsychotics: They cure manic, depressive, and mixed episodes of bipolar disorder. They impact the brain’s neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, which control a person’s mood and behavior. They suppress symptoms like delusions and agitations by soothing the nervous system. Some popular antipsychotic drugs are quetiapine, ziprasidone, olanzapine, and others. 
  • Therapy

Therapy, when combined with medication, can effectively treat bipolar disorder. Below are some popular therapies you can adopt:

  • Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT): This therapy aims to stabilize the daily habits, like eating habits and sleeping patterns, of a person with bipolar disorder. As a result, one can better control their moods and hinder relapses. 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This is another common therapy that aims to improve a person’s behavior and reduce negative thoughts. It helps treat bipolar disorder by challenging risky behavior and thoughts and enables one to cope with the appropriate skills and strategies. 
  • Psychoeducation: In this type of therapy, psychotherapists educate individuals about the signs and symptoms, triggers, and treatments of bipolar disorder. Knowing this information can help doctors know the root cause of your condition, control the symptoms, and make enlightened decisions about your treatment. 
  • Family-Focused Therapy (FFT): Family plays a key role in regulating and treating bipolar disorder. Family-Focused Therapy works with your family members to solve conflicts, boost communication, and offer support. This will enhance your quality of life and that of your loved ones.  
  • Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle modifications can also be effective in regulating bipolar disorder symptoms and improving your overall well-being. Some helpful changes you can employ include:

  • Exercise constantly: Working out regularly helps you to manage your mood, lower stress, and boost your overall physical health. 
  • Have sufficient sleep: Inadequate sleep can worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Therefore, set up a regular sleep pattern and sleep around eight hours every night. 
  • Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet has the nutrients required for optimum brain function and mood stabilization. 
  • Manage stress: Stress is among the major causes of bipolar disorder. Therefore, establish effective stress management strategies to prevent mood episodes. 

Conclusion

Understanding the meaning of bipolar disorder, its causes, symptoms, and treatment is vital for various reasons. First, it lets you identify the condition early and immediately seek medication. This can lead to better results and prevent the occurrence of more adverse episodes. Additionally, it enables family members and friends to offer enhanced support to their loved ones. Lastly, knowing the various treatments lets you choose the right medication, maintain your mood, boost your relationships, and ultimately be more effective in your daily activities. 

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