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What is Bipolar disorder?

Published: 3rd Dec 2020 6:43 pm

Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression) is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. It is a mental illness that is marked by alternating periods of extreme lows (depression) and extreme highs (mania).

Types

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There are three types of bipolar disorder. All three types involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels.
• Bipolar I Disorder— defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed are also possible.

• Bipolar II Disorder— defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes that are typical of Bipolar I Disorder.

• Cyclothymic Disorder (also called Cyclothymia)— defined by periods of hypomanic symptoms as well as periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.

Although bipolar disorder can occur at any age, typically it’s diagnosed in the teenage years or early 20s. Symptoms can vary from person to person, and symptoms may vary over time.

Symptoms in children and teens

  • Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be difficult to identify in children and teens. It’s often hard to tell whether these are normal ups and downs, the results of stress or trauma, or signs of a mental health problem other than bipolar disorder.
  • The most prominent signs of bipolar disorder in children and teenagers may include severe mood swings that are different from their usual mood swings.

Causes

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

• Biological differences. People with bipolar disorder appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
• Genetics. Bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent, with the condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing bipolar disorder.

Treatments

Medications: Treatment can help many people, including those with the most severe forms of bipolar disorder. Medications generally used to treat bipolar disorder include mood stabilizers and second-generation (“atypical”) antipsychotics. Treatment plans may also include medications that target sleep or anxiety.

Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, also called “talk therapy,” can be an effective part of the treatment plan for people with bipolar disorder. Treatment may include therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychoeducation, which are used to treat a variety of conditions
• Combination of treatments (learning to recognise triggers/mood swings, lifestyle changes etc)


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