Bipolar – The Facts

Bipolar – The Facts

3 July 2014

It is a lifelong condition that will affect the way you feel and how you act. Bipolar is a mood disorder caused by chemical imbalances in the brain that can result in extreme mood swings from manic highs, to depressive lows.

Causes of bipolar disorder:

This mood disorder  affects men and women equally, and usually starts between the ages of 15 and 25. The exact cause is not known, but it occurs more often in relatives of people with a mood disorder, e.g depression. As a biological disorder, it may lie dormant and be activated on its own, or may be triggered by external factors such as psychological stress and social circumstances. In most people with bipolar disorder, there is no clear cause for the periods of extreme happiness (mania) or depression. A life event may trigger a mood episode, as well as altered health habits, hormonal problems as well as drug and alcohol abuse. Social or environmental factors can play a role as well as certain medications may set off a depressive or manic episode.

How to recognise bipolar disorder:

  • People with bipolar disorder switch from feeling overly happy and energetic to feeling very sad.
  • The shifts between depression and mania involve mood, energy and the ability to function.
  • Signs of mania: Increased activity, less need for sleep, overly euphoric mood, racing thoughts, rapid speech, reckless behaviour such as spending sprees, drinking and drugs, poor temper control and judgement, expansive or irritable mood.
  • Signs of depression: Daily low mood or sadness, excessive feelings of guilt or worthlessness, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, difficulty concentrating, overeating or loss of appetite, thoughts of death or suicide, low self- esteem, pulling away from friends, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.

Ways to manage bipolar disorder:

  • Seek professional help. Medication is absolutely essential. Psychotherapy is important for better understanding of your symptoms and learning effective skills.
  • Take medication as prescribed. Never discontinue medication on your own.
  • Remind yourself that racing thoughts are part of the illness. When your brain starts swirling with negative thoughts, remind yourself that this is depression and that you are not like this when you are well.
  • Chart your symptoms. Keep a daily chart of your mood and sleep patterns, irritability, anxiety and exercise habits. This will help to prevent a mood episode or lessen its severity.
  • Focus on the present. When your mind wanders, bring it back to the here and now.
  • Create a bedtime routine. Sleep is critical for someone with bipolar disorder. Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest triggers for a manic episode.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Both worsen symptoms and disrupt sleep.
  • Watch your emotions. Do activities that will give you a sense of accomplishment and create a feeling of being productive.

Treating bipolar:

There is no single, simple cure. A combination of medication and psychotherapy can help bipolar sufferers to live fulfilling lives. The main goal of treatment is to make mood episodes less frequent and severe, to help the sufferer function optimally at home and work and to prevent self-injury or suicide.

The information on Fedhealth Medical Aid is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

Source: www.webmd.com, www.nytimes.com, www.activebeat.com, www.healthline.com

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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