Bipolar depression, more commonly known as bipolar disorder, is a mental disorder that causes people to experience drastic changes in mood – often alternating between periods of high energy and enthusiasm (known as manic episodes) and low energy and depression (known as depressive episodes).
These episodes can last for days or weeks at a time and can be very disruptive and make it difficult for people to function in their everyday lives. In addition to extreme, unpredictable mood swings, other symptoms of bipolar disorder can include:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite
- Extreme highs and lows in mood
- Racing thoughts
- Impulsive behavior
- Difficulties concentrating
- Suicidal ideation
Types of Bipolar Disorder
There are two main types of bipolar disorder:
Bipolar I Disorder – Previously known as manic depression, this is the more severe form of the disorder and is characterized by episodes of mania that last for at least seven days (or are so intense that hospitalization is necessary) followed by periods of depression.
Bipolar II Disorder – This less severe form of the disorder is characterized by episodes of hypomania (a less intense form of mania) that alternate with periods of depression.
While there are two main types of bipolar disorder, there is also a third category known as cyclothymic disorder (or cyclothymia), which is characterized by episodes of hypomania and milder forms of depression that last for at least two years. People with cyclothymia are also at higher risk of developing bipolar I or II disorder.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People with a family history of bipolar disorder or other mental health disorders are at an increased risk of developing the condition, as are those who have experienced trauma or stressful life events.
Some studies have also found that people with bipolar disorder tend to have structural differences in their brains compared to those without the condition, which could also be a contributing factor.
Treating Bipolar Disorder
People with bipolar disorder usually require long-term treatment to manage their symptoms and prevent episodes of mania or depression from occurring. Treatment typically involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes.
Medications such as mood stabilizers or antipsychotics are often used to help control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Some people may also require antidepressants to treat their depressive episodes.
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, can be an effective treatment for bipolar disorder. It can help people learn how to cope with their condition and make lifestyle changes to prevent future episodes from occurring.
Making lifestyle changes such as getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep can help people with bipolar disorder manage their symptoms and prevent future episodes. It is also important to avoid triggers such as stress or substance abuse that can worsen symptoms.
If you suspect you or someone close to you may have bipolar disorder, it is vital to seek professional help as soon as possible. Bipolar disorder is a debilitating condition and a significant risk factor for suicide, so early diagnosis and treatment are paramount. Luckily, with proper treatment, people with bipolar disorder are often able to lead a normal life.