Bipolar Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Bipolar disorder can also be called manic depression due to the pattern of shuffling between mania and depression.

Bipolar disorder is actually a lifelong condition, and there is no cure for it yet, but the disorder can be managed effectively, and the person would have an otherwise normal life once they adhere to their medications.

This disorder affects both Men & Women alike. Although bipolar disorder can occur at any age, it is more commonly noticed in persons a over the age of 25 years.


What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition. Individuals with this condition tend to have extreme mood swings. That is, at some points, they can be showing elevated mood conditions (known as mania or hypomania), while at other times, they would be having periods of low mood or sadness (known as depression).

In other words, people with this disorder experience dramatic changes in their mood from being all very excited and feeling on top of the world to almost sadness that can be detrimental to their health. Like its going to be like the might commit suicide.

See also: Schizophrenia (Madness): Causes, Treatments


Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are two (2) distinct groups of bipolar related disorders according to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-IV), these are:
I. Bipolar I disorder: Here the person has had at least one episode of mania (high mood/extreme excitement) which could be followed by hypomanic or depressive episodes (low mood/sadness) lasting at least seven days.
ii. Bipolar II disorder: the person has never suffered a manic episode (high mood/extreme excitement) but has had at least one hypomanic episode and frequent depressive episode (low mood/sadness).


Causes of Bipolar Episode

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not clearly understood. There are several risks factors that may play a role in the development of this condition. They include;


  1. Hereditary: Bipolar disorder has been known to have a genetic predisposition. What this means is that if you have a family member with this condition, you also have a high chance of developing the disease, as it has been commonly observed in individuals who have on or more relatives such as a sibling or parent with the condition.
  2. People with this condition have also been found to have some physical and chemical changes in their brain.

Other events such as illness, not getting enough sleep, use of certain medication, alcohol abuse and stress might increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder.


Signs & Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

This is based on episodes of depression (sadness) and mania (extreme excitement) or hypomania.


bipolar disorder
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Mania: can be explained as an abnormally high or irritable mood. That is, a person with Mania has an unusually high levels of energy. The person in question here, is very active, jumping from one place to another, excessive energy. Can clean the whole house, sweep everywhere, cook, and is still looking for what to do. This kind of person is the kind of person that you would want to employ for a job. Always want to keep working, not even having time to eat.

The symptoms of this mood disturbance should last at least one week. For mania to be confirmed, at least 3 of the following episodes must be present:


  1. A feeling of excess euphoria (happiness) or overly happy.
  2. Being easily distracted.
  3. Restlessness or over activity. Always wanting to do something. Cannot sit still or rest for a couple of minutes.
  4. Grandiosity or feeling of extreme self importance. That’s feeling like the president of the country.
  5. Talkativeness
  6. Increased energy
  7. Flight of ideas: The person keeps having one idea after another and keep on trying to act on all of the, thereby not completing any task before entering another one. Like this minute, he is sweeping, the next minute, he is washing, the next, he leaves the clothes he is washing to go and start cooking. Just like that.
  8. Decreased sleep: The person does not feel the need to sleep at all.
  9. Behaving in impulsive manners like having reckless sex, excessive spending or gambling.

Hypomania: is very similar to mania but the difference is that hypomanic episodes are not severe enough to cause impairment in social or occupational function.

Depression: A patient with depressive episodes must have at least five or more of the following symptoms of which at least one of the symptoms must be either a depressed mood or loss of interest or enjoyment of previously liked activities. The symptoms include:


  1. Persistent low mood
  2. Loss of interest in activities
  3. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  4. Low self esteem
  5. Reduced attention
  6. Changes in weight and appetite
  7. Disturbed sleep and loss of libido etc.
  8. Suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide


Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Anyone with any of the above symptoms or suspected to have this disease are to see a doctor (a psychiatrist) as soon as possible.

Treatment is based on the symptom being shown which could be either of mania or depression as well as on the severity of the episodes.

There are a number of available treatment options such as;
1) Pharmacotherapy: This involves use of medication such as;
Mood Stabilizers (like Lithium carbonate, Carbamezepine, Sodium valproate, BZDs), Antipsychotic drugs (like haloperidol, chlorpromazine, risperidone), etc.
2) Non Pharmacotherapy: This involves treatment that does not include the use of medications or drugs. This may also help to improve quality of life and decrease rate in relapse in this persons.
Example of available treatment options are: ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy), Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Family therapy, Pyschotherapy, etc.

Your Psychiatrist would determine the best treatment option for you.

Patients with suicidal intentions or who might have attempted suicide in the past may need to be hospitalized. The same can be done for patients who have started to behave in a severe psychotic manner making them a danger to themselves and to others around them.


How Effective is the Treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

Rate of relapse is usually high and outcome of treatment depends on some factors such as presence of a co-morbidity, severe alcohol use, poor drug compliance, lack of adequate support from family members and care takers etc.


Prevention of Bipolar Disorder

There are no exact preventive strategies but the following might help;


  • Avoiding excessive alcohol intake
  • Learning to manage stress
  • Regular exercise
  • Avoiding use of recreational drugs

Feel free to ask any questions you may have below.

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