Health & FitnessLifestyle

Getting To Know Bipolar Disorder

Have you ever felt extreme happiness and then suddenly felt completely sad and depressed?

Have you gone through mood swings that cause you to lose control of yourself?

These scenarios above clearly picture the life of those who suffer from bipolar disorder,  also known as manic depression.

WHAT IS BIPOLAR DISORDER?

Different than diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure, Malaysian Digest states, this illness causes a person to go through extreme changes in mood, thought, energy, and behaviour.

According to Mayo Clinic, it is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

Episodes of mood swings may occur rarely or multiple times a year.

STATISTICS

A report by the Malaysian Psychiatric Association in 2013 shows an estimate of approximately 3% of Malaysians suffer from the disorder.

According to the World Health Organization, the disorder also ranks among the top 10 most disabling disorders in working age adults worldwide and up to this day it has affected around 29 million people worldwide.

SYMPTOMS OF BIPOLAR DISORDER

Episodes of mania and depression often last for several weeks or months. The symptoms are as stated below.

Depression

During a period of depression, the symptoms may include:

  • feeling sad, hopeless or short-tempered most of the time
  • lacking energy
  • difficulty concentrating and remembering things
  • loss of interest in everyday activities
  • feelings of emptiness or worthlessness
  • feelings of guilt and despair
  • feeling pessimistic about everything
  • self-doubt
  • being delusional, having hallucinations and disturbed or illogical thinking
  • lack of appetite
  • difficulty sleeping
  • waking up early
  • suicidal thoughts

Mania

The manic phase of bipolar disorder may include:

  • feeling very happy, excited or overjoyed
  • talking very quickly
  • feeling full of energy
  • feeling self-important
  • feeling full of great new ideas and having important plans
  • being easily distracted
  • being easily irritated or agitated
  • being delusional, having hallucinations and disturbed or illogical thinking
  • not feeling like sleeping
  • not eating
  • doing things that often have disastrous consequences – such as spending large sums of money on expensive and sometimes unaffordable items
  • making decisions or saying things that are out of character and that others see as being risky or harmful

Patterns of depression and mania

A person with this condition may have episodes of depression more regularly than episodes of mania, or vice versa.

Between episodes of depression and mania, this person may sometimes have “normal” moods.

CAUSES OF BIPOLAR DISORDER

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but several factors may be involved, such as:

  • Biological differences. It seems that people with bipolar disorder have physical changes in their brains.

The significance of these changes is still unclear but it may help recognise causes to bipolar disorder.

  • Genetics. Bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a family member, such as a sibling or parent, with the condition.

Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing bipolar disorder.

RISK FACTORS

Factors that may increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder or act as a trigger for the first episode include:

  • Periods of high stress, such as the death of a loved one or other traumatic event
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

COMPLICATIONS

Left untreated, bipolar disorder can result in serious problems that could affect an individual’s life, such as:

  • Problems related to drug and alcohol use
  • Suicide or suicide attempts
  • Legal or financial problems
  • Damaged relationships
  • Poor work or school performance

TREATMENT OPTIONS

There’s no sure way to prevent bipolar disorder.

However, getting treatment at the earliest sign of a mental health disorder can help prevent bipolar disorder or other mental health conditions from worsening.

If this condition is not treated, episodes of bipolar-related mania can last for between three and six months. Episodes of depression tend to last longer, for between six and 12 months.

However, according to UK’s National Health Service,  with effective treatment, episodes usually improve within about three months.

Most people with bipolar disorder can be treated using a combination of different treatments. These can include one or more of the following:

  • medication to prevent episodes of mania, hypomania (less severe mania) and depression – these are known as mood stabilisers and are taken every day on a long-term basis
  • medication to treat the main symptoms of occuring depression and mania
  • learning to recognise the triggers and signs of an episode of depression or mania
  • psychological treatment – such as talking therapies, which help individuals deal with depression and provide advice on how to improve relationships
  • lifestyle advice – such as doing regular exercise, planning activities that individuals might enjoy, and advice on improving a patient’s  diet and getting enough sleep.

LIVING WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER

Most people with bipolar disorder can receive most of their treatment without having to stay in hospital.

However, hospital treatment may be needed if symptoms are severe, or if there’s possibility  that a person might self-harm or hurt others.

According to Malaysian Digest, some world famous icons who suffer from bipolar disorder like Demi Lovato and Catherine Zeta-Jones, are still able to continue to be successful in their careers, and both openly talk about their disorders in hopes of inspiring others to seek treatment.

24-year-old Demi who’s famous for her singing and acting career has been a sufferer of bipolar disorder for years and is the spokesperson of the “Be Vocal: Speak Up For Mental Health Campaign”, aimed at challenging the negative stigma against mental illness.

The former ‘X Factor’ USA judge also explained that her father had suffered from the similar illness before he passed away in 2013.

“I watched him live a very unfortunate life because of the lack of access to treatment,” she said.

Lovato admits to feeling relieved after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and got treatment with the help of her family in 2010.

“Living well with bipolar disorder is possible, but it takes patience, it takes work, and it is an ongoing process.

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