We all have our ups and downs; we experience bad mood and good mood. But those people who suffer from bipolar disorder experience these mood swings in the most severe way. Usually, these peaks reveal themselves in such an intense way that they can harm a person’s job or his progress in studies, they can damage the relationships with other people. In general – they can disrupt a normal everyday life. Though the bipolar disorder can be treated, many people ignore or simply don’t recognize the warning signals and therefore, they don’t take or even refuse to take timely measures. Since the bipolar disorder becomes even worse if not treated, this article will tell you a bit more about it, so you could recognize this disorder and take all the necessary precautions.
What is Manic Depressive Disorder?
Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as manic depression or manic depressive disorder) causes serious changes in the person’s behavior, energy, ways of thinking and mood. On one hand, the person experiences the highs of mania, on the other hand, – the lows of depression. It’s something bigger and more serious than just a good or bad mood because each phase of this disorder lasts for a few days, weeks or even months. And opposed to ordinary mood swings, the mood changes of manic depression (bipolar disorder) are so intense, that they affect the person’s ability to function properly. The phase of experiencing one or the other peak of the disorder is called “an episode”.
During the manic episode, a person might impulsively quit his job, spend a huge sum of money (even if it was lent) or feel as fit as a fiddle after two-hour sleep.
During the depressive episode that the same person might be so tired that he won’t be able to leave the bed, or he might feel self-hatred, being in the state of complete desperation over the lost job or being in debt.
Causes of Manic Depressive Disorder
The causes of manic depressive disorder are not entirely clear and there is no one single cause of this disorder, but usually it’s all in the genetics. Nevertheless, not all the people, who are subjects to the disorder, suffer from it. That means that genes are not the only cause. Some studies show that the disease may be shown during the brain MRI – the physical deviations will be seen. At the same time, other studies indicate the neurotransmitter imbalance, abnormal thyroid function, circadian rhythm disturbances, and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
The external psychological and environmental factors allegedly affect the development of bipolar disorder. These factors are called “triggers”. They can provoke the manic and depressive episodes. But these episodes, in their turn, may occur without any obvious reason.
There may be following triggers:
- Stress – stressful events may cause the bipolar disorder if the person is genetically predisposed. These events, as a rule, are connected with some rapid and huge changes (either good or bad): wedding, entering the university, the loss of the loved one, break up, moving to another place/town, etc.
- Abuse of inhalants – while the drug abuse doesn’t cause the bipolar disorder itself, it may trigger another episode and/or aggravate the disorder as it is. Such drugs, as cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamine may provoke another manic episode while the alcohol and sedatives may cause the depressive episode.
- Medications – some meds, antidepressants, in particular, may cause mania. Among other medical drugs capable of triggering mania there are over-the-counter cold medicine, appetite suppressant, caffeine, corticosteroids and thyroid medications.
- Seasonal changes — both manic and depressive episodes often follow the natural seasonal pattern. Manic episodes are more common during summer, the depressive episodes – in autumn, spring, and winter.
- Sleep deprivation – the loss of sleep, even of few hours of rest may trigger the manic episode.
Bipolar disorder symptoms may differ from person to person: they vary in their pattern, severity, and frequency. Some people are more inclined to the manic stage, others – to the depressive stage. And some may have these stages progress evenly. Some people experience mood swings very often while others may have these rapid changes in mood and behavior only once in a blue moon.
Manic and depressive are peak stages of the manic depression (another name for bipolar disorder). But there also exist intermediate stages. Therefore, there are four main stages of bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, depression and mixed stage. Every type of the stage has its own symptoms.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
Manic phase of bipolar disorder is characterized by the feelings of heightened energy, creativity, and euphoria. People in this phase talk too quick and too much, they barely sleep and are hyperactive. They can also feel themselves almighty, invincible or even destined for greater deeds.
Despite the fact that the person in manic stage feels good, he may lose control. These people usually behave themselves carelessly: they gamble all their money or just buy things they don’t even need; they engage in inappropriate sexual activity or make stupid foolish things, etc. They may get mad, annoyed and even violent if someone expresses disagreement with their “great” plans or criticize their behavior. Some people may become delusional and start hearing voices.
The common signs and symptoms of mania include:
- Extreme optimism or irritation
- Unreal and grandiose ideas about one’s own possibilities
- Feeling incredibly energetic (despite the lack of sleep)
- Talking so rapidly that others don’t understand
- Racing thoughts, jumping from one idea to another
- Inability to concentrate on something
- Malfunction of objectivity and impulsiveness
- Neglectful attitude towards the consequences of one’s own actions
- Delusions and hallucinations (in severe cases)
Signs and Symptoms of Hypomania
Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. People in hypomania stage also feel euphoric, energetic and productive. But they are capable of doing every-day job and they never lose the contact with reality. It may even seem that the person in the stage of hypomania is just being in the super elevated mood. Nevertheless, hypomania may become the reason of bad choices, which, in their turn, damage the relationships, career, and reputation. What is more, hypomania often develops to full-blown mania or it replaces with a severe depressive stage.
Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Depression
Some time ago bipolar depression used to be mistakenly diagnosed as a regular depression. But more studies indicate that there are major differences between them, especially when it comes to the treatment with medicine. Antidepressants don’t help the vast majority of people suffering from bipolar depression. In fact, there’s a risk that antidepressants can make the bipolar disease even worse, causing rapid cycling between manic and depressive stages.
If we cast away the similarities, we’ll notice that there are bipolar disorder symptoms that are more common to bipolar depression than to a regular depression. Thus, bipolar depression is usually accompanied with irritation, unpredictable mood swings and anxiety. As a rule, people with bipolar disorder talk and move slowly, they sleep too much and put on weight. Besides, they are at risk to develop psychotic depression, especially when the person loses contact with reality and is unable to work properly and communicate.
The common signs and symptoms of bipolar depression include:
- The feeling of hopelessness, sadness or emptiness
- Inability to experience pleasure
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Physical and mind sluggishness
- Appetite and weight changes
- Sleep problems
- Memory and concentration problems
- Worthlessness or guilt
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Signs and Symptoms of a Mixed Episode
During mixed episode people with bipolar disease experience symptoms of both mania (or hypomania) and depression. The common signs of a mixed episode include depression combined with agitation, irritation, anxiety, insomnia, distractibility and racing thoughts. Such a combo of these energy states and a low mood create a particularly high risk of suicide.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
According to the cycling of these or those episodes there are various types of bipolar disorder:
- Bipolar Disorder I (mania or a mixed stage) – a classic manic-depressive form of the illness, with at least one manic or mixed episode. Usually, but not always, “Bipolar Disorder I” involves at least one depressive episode.
- Bipolar Disorder II (hypomania and depression) – a person doesn’t experience full-scaled manic episodes. Instead, the illness includes hypomania and a severe depression stages.
- Cyclothymia (hypomania and mild depression) – a mild form of bipolar disorder. It includes only cyclical mood swings. However, the symptoms are less severe than during the full-blown mania or depression.
All these bipolar disorder symptoms should be helpful in indicating the disease and differentiating it from a regular depression or a super elevated mood. And so you’ll be able to help.