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Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression) is a lifelong mental health condition characterized by extreme shifts in energy, activity levels, and mood that alternate between manic highs and depressive lows. During manic episodes, a person may feel overly euphoric or irritable while feeling intensely sad or hopeless during depressive episodes.

Everyone goes through mood swings from time to time. So, if you experience mood fluctuations, this still doesn’t mean you have bipolar disorder. However, seek professional assistance if these mood changes are severe enough to cause noticeable difficulty at work, school, social activities, or relationships.

How Common is Bipolar Disorder?

According to Mental Health America, one in every 40 adults and one percent of teenagers in the United States live with bipolar disorder. The condition affects men and women equally. 

While bipolar disorder may strike anyone at any age, it usually develops in adolescence and young adulthood, between the ages of 15 and 25.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

While the specific causes of bipolar disorder remain unknown, factors that can contribute to the onset of bipolar disorder include genetics, brain structure, and environmental influences.

Signs of Bipolar Disorder and Its Impact 

Fluctuations in mood, activity, and energy levels in bipolar disorder typically range from periods of ecstatic, euphoric behavior (manic episodes) to feeling extremely sad and hopeless (depressive episodes). 

The Episode of Mania or Hypomania

During manic or hypomanic episodes, a person may display boundless energy, elevated joy, and excessive talkativeness. Symptoms common to both mania and hypomania include increased energy, euphoric mood, agitation, inflated self-esteem, poor decision-making, and a tendency to engage in risky behaviors. However, manic episodes are more intense than hypomanic ones, potentially leading to psychosis and requiring hospitalization.

Depressive Episode

A major depressive episode successively follows hypomania or mania, significantly impairing the individual’s ability to function in daily activities and maintain social relationships. 

This phase includes severe symptoms such as profound sadness and fatigue, anxiety, concentration and memory problems, difficulty making decisions, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts.

Living with bipolar disorder can often feel like being on an emotional rollercoaster. You may find yourself swinging from periods of intense euphoria to deep depression, feeling confused and exhausted. These intense fluctuations in mood can disrupt your ability to study or work, strain your relationship, and impact your overall well-being. 

How to Manage Bipolar Disorder: Medications and Psychotherapy 

Bipolar disorder can be effectively managed with medication, therapy, and lifestyle adjustments. Therefore, seeking support and building a treatment strategy that works for you is crucial.

Medication

The optimal treatment for bipolar disorder combines medication and psychotherapy. Mood stabilizers are commonly used to immediately regulate mood, alongside antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, sleeping pills, and antipsychotic medications. 

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy supports individuals with bipolar disorder and their families by teaching mood and thought pattern recognition, developing coping mechanisms, and fostering healthy daily routines. Critical therapeutic approaches include cognitive-behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, substance abuse treatment, and psychoeducation. 

Hospitalization

If a person is acting dangerously, in the sense of self-harm or harm to others, they may need to be hospitalized to keep them safe and stabilize their mood.

In Conclusion

Bipolar disorder is a persistent psychological condition that causes dramatic mood and energy swings. You can manage your condition effectively by addressing symptoms with a combination of medications, psychotherapy, and lifestyle adjustments. If there is a risk of self-harm or harm to others, your condition may require hospitalization.

Herny Kaggwa
Written and reviewed by: Herny Kaggwa
PMHNP-BC, APRN. Clinical Director
Assured Hope Community Health. LLC
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