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What Is Bipolar Disorder and How to Treat It

Learn more about bipolar disorder and treatment.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a diagnosis that is a mood disorder in which the person may experience different states or as some prefer to call it episodes of being depressed and/or manic.

A person suffering from bipolar disorder can experience both depression and manic states. There may be days that the person starts off depressed and switches to manic or vice versa. The states can change rapidly or last for days or even weeks.

Not only is it a disabling psychiatric condition, but it can cause many different problems while in a depressed state or a manic state.

There is a difference between depression and bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder includes states of being overly energized, feeling like they can do anything, and can often result in reckless spending or bingeing. The person does also still experience depression as the disorder switches back and forth.

The intensity and the duration of the different mood states will vary widely for people with this disorder.

People often refer to fluctuation in mood states as mood swings, but you may also hear it referred to as cycling more commonly. The cycling can cause severe impairment in a person’s mood, energy levels, sleep patterns, activity levels, social interactions, and thinking ability.

Often time, people can find themselves fully disabled for a period of time. Usually, this occurs when going from a manic cycle to a depressed cycle. This can be incredibly difficult for the person to function when they drop into depression.

The depression side of someone suffering from bipolar disorder seems to be more dominant at a ratio of three to one of the person's time spent in depression versus time spent in a manic state, for those diagnosed with bipolar type 1. Those diagnosed with bipolar type 2 usually remain in a depressed state for a much longer time.

When looking at terms of productivity, disability, and a potential for being suicidal, bipolar depression has now been recognized as the most debilitating aspect of the disorder.

During periods of severe depression, a person may experience symptoms of psychosis. These symptoms can include delusions and hallucinations. The person can also suffer from thoughts of paranoia or being monitored or persecuted by entities such as the government or other hostile force.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is not something that can currently be cured, but it can be treated and managed. The major focus of the treatment is effective management of long-term course of the illness. This involves treatment of the emergent symptoms the person is experiencing.

The typical treatment includes psychological and pharmaceutical treatments and techniques. There are a variety of medications that are used to treat bipolar disorder. Most of the people who suffer from bipolar disorder will require a combination of medications.

Relapse of Bipolar Disorder

Even when someone is on medication, it is still possible for a person to experience weaker cycles and can still have a complete depressive or manic episode. Here are some of the behaviors that can lead to a manic or depressive relapse:

  • Taking or using street drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, or heroin. These drugs can cause the persons condition to worsen and it is recommended that the person avoid all recreational drugs.
  • Lowering or discontinuing the dose of medication the person is on without first consulting their doctor.
  • Having an inconsistent sleeping schedule can cause the illness to become destabilized. If the person is sleeping too much, this can lead to a depressive state. On the flip side, if the person is getting too little sleep, this can lead to mania or mixed states.
  • Being over or under medicated. In general, if a person is taking too low of a dosage of the mood stabilizer, it can lead to a relapse into a manic state. At the same time, too low of an antidepressant can cause the person to go into a depressive state. Taking higher doses can cause a destabilization into mania or mixed states.
  • Poor lifestyle choices and poor stress management. If a person is unmedicated, they can be affected by high-stress levels and can cause the person to relapse.

This is in no way to be interpreted as medical advice. If you or someone you know suffers from bipolar disorder, it is highly recommended to seek out professional medical advice from a family doctor or psychiatrist and start a treatment plan.

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