Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder Fact Sheet – taken bits with permission from an article by Margarita Tartakovsky

So Many of our birth mothers are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I thought it was important to provide some information about it. Our oldest son was diagnosed this year with bipolar disorder. We started noticing symptoms 2 yrs ago after a major stress in his life occurred. He is now on medication and seeing a therapist. He is stabilized and learning what will be important in caring for himself and managing “triggers”. He will still be able to go to college (enrolled now) and realize his dream of becoming a Dr. In fact he is looking at psychiatry!

All of us experience changes in our moods. Some days we might feel irritable and frustrated; other days, we’re happy and excited. However, individuals with bipolar disorder experience severe mood swings that impair their daily life and negatively affect their relationships.

Approximately 2.6 percent of American adults have bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression and manic depressive disorder), according to the National Institute of Mental Health. These mood swings include “highs” (mania), when individuals feel either on top of the world or on edge, and “lows” (depression), when they feel sad and hopeless. Suicide attempts are common in bipolar disorder, especially during depressive episodes.

Bipolar disorder can be effectively treated with medication and psychotherapy. With proper treatment, individuals with bipolar can lead fulfilling, productive lives. This is why it’s so important to recognize the symptoms and see a mental health professional for an evaluation.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

There is no single cause for bipolar disorder. Indeed, like all psychological disorders, bipolar disorder is a complex condition with multiple contributing factors, including:

* Genetic: Bipolar disorder tends to run in families, so researchers believe there is a genetic predisposition for the disorder. Scientists also are exploring the presence of abnormalities on specific genes.
* Biological: Researchers believe that some neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, don’t function properly in individuals with bipolar disorder.
* Environmental: Outside factors, such as stress or a major life event, may trigger a genetic predisposition or potential biological reaction. For instance, if bipolar disorder was entirely genetic, both identical twins would have the disorder. But research reveals that one twin can have bipolar, while the other does not, implicating the environment as a potential contributing cause.

What Are the Different Types of Bipolar Disorder?

* Bipolar I is considered the classic type of bipolar disorder. Individuals experience both manic and depressive episodes of varying lengths.
* Bipolar II involves less severe manic episodes than bipolar I; however, their depressive episodes are the same.
* Cyclothymia is a chronic but milder form of bipolar disorder, characterized by episodes of hypomania and depression that last for at least two years.
* Mixed episodes are ones in which mania and depression occur simultaneously. Individuals might feel hopeless and depressed yet energetic and motivated to engage in risky behaviors.
* Rapid-cycling bipolar individuals experience four or more episodes of mania, depression or both within one year.

What Are the Risk Factors for Bipolar Disorder?

Risk factors include having:

* Cyclothymia (see definition above). About half of individuals with cyclothymia will experience a manic episode.
* Any other psychological disorder
* A family history of bipolar or other psychological disorders
* Alcohol and substance abuse
* Medication interactions. For instance, antidepressants may trigger mania.
* Major life changes
* Severe stress

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

There are four possible bipolar states:

1. Mania
2. Hypomania
3. Depression
4. A mixture of mania and depression (called a “mixed episode”).

Mood states are highly variable. Some people can experience mood changes in one week, while others can spend months or even years in one episode.
What Does Mania Look Like?

* Feelings of euphoria and elation or irritability and anger
* Impulsive, high-risk behavior, including grand shopping sprees, drug and alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity
* Aggressive behavior
* Increased energy and rapid speech
* Fleeting, often grandiose ideas
* Decreased sleep (typically the individual doesn’t feel tired after as few as three hours of sleep)
* Decreased appetite
* Difficulty concentrating; disorganized thoughts
* Inflated self-esteem
* Delusions and hallucinations (in severe cases)

There are no medical tests to diagnose bipolar disorder. However, a psychologist, psychiatrist or other trained mental health professional can diagnose the disorder by conducting a face-to-face clinical interview. Your clinical interview will include detailed questions about your and your family’s medical and mental health history and your symptoms.
What Treatments Exist for Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder can be effectively managed with a combination of medication and psychotherapy to help in reducing both the number of episodes and their intensity. Treatment also can help prevent future episodes if the individual is willing to work on personal issues and develop healthy habits.

How Else Can I Manage Bipolar Disorder?

* Take your medication.
* See a therapist regularly.
* Learn more about bipolar disorder and its treatment
* Participate in online communities or in-person support groups
* Adopt healthy habits, including exercising, practicing stress management techniques, eating healthy, avoiding alcohol and drugs, getting seven to eight hours of sleep and avoiding any potential triggers.

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