People that suffer from bipolar disorder are characterized by having major changes in mood and behavior. This disorder involves a cycle of having a high energy state knows as mania, a less severe form of mania called hypomania, and a very low energy mood state of depression. There are various levels of bipolar disorder that depend on the length of mania and depression cycles that a person experiences. Many factors can also influence if someone can be diagnosed with this disorder based on genetics and if a family member has suffered from bipolar disorder in the past. While symptoms of this disorder can start to occur during the late teens and early adult years of life, some people that do recognize these symptoms may not be diagnosed for a long time. While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, prescription drugs are available to stabilize the moods that this disorder causes as well as various forms of treatments.
Bipolar disorder can be broken down into four types based on various symptoms. Bipolar I is at the top of the list as being the most severe form of the disorder. Following the list based on severity would be Bipolar II, this type includes a milder form of mania called hypomania. Cyclothymia incorporates a fluctuation of hypomania and depression are shorter and less severe. And the last being Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, this type of the disorder involves the symptoms of the other types however, they do not fit into the other categories.
Bipolar I is characterized by having episodes of manic. These manic episodes include feelings of increased sociability, talkativeness, hyperactivity, and a decreased need for sleep. These manic episodes can last at least seven days and can become so severe that people require medical attention. Followed by the period of mania is a period of severe depression that could last from up to a week to months before cycling back to the manic stage. Mixed states can also occur where both the manic and hypomanic symptoms occur at the same time.
Bipolar II is a less severe type of Bipolar I. This type includes major depressive episodes that alternate with hypomania. This form of bipolar disorder can last a long time and patients tend to have very low energy, along with fatigue and excessive sleep. While the hypomanic episodes are milder than manic episodes it can still impair basic functioning. During this type of bipolar disorder people can experience periods of normal functioning however, the risk for suicide is high.
Cyclothymia is similar to the other types of bipolar disorder but the cycling of hypomanic episodes and depression is not major. A portion of people that are diagnosed with Cyclothymia will develop either Bipolar I or Bipolar II later in life. These periods of hypomania and depression are much shorter and less severe as well as separated by a normal mood. People with this type have mood swings that can change drastically, one day they can feel like they are the best that they can be and the next day they can be down with feelings of depression.
This type of bipolar disorder involves symptoms of manic episodes and major depressive episodes but do not fit into the other types of the disorder. Someone would be diagnosed with this type if they experienced a rapid cycling between manic and depressive episodes. This is the least severe type of bipolar disorder. Like the other types they are treatable with medications.
Even though the direct cause for bipolar disorder has not clearly been identified, there are multiple factors that increase the chances of having the disorder. Genetic factors have a great effect on an offspring having bipolar disorder based on if a parent or family background has suffered from it in the past. Environment factors also play a role in the disorder. Causes can also range from other disorders playing a role to any kind of substance abuse such as cocaine.
Genetics play a big part in determining the probability of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This disorder is most likely to develop and be inherited if even one parent has bipolar disorder. Based on specific mutations in regions of chromosomes 13, 18, and 21, a repeated sequence especially in chromosome 18 can be seen in people with Bipolar II. Even though this has been discovered in some patients, it is not located in everyone that has the disorder.
The environment and seasons are a cause that can trigger the cycles of bipolar disorder. Manic and depressive episodes will often coincide with seasonal changes. Depressive episodes will have a larger presence during the seasons of fall and winter. During these seasons daylight gets shorter and temperature drops causing a lack of motivation to leave the house or be active. The opposite being the seasons of spring and summer that cause a manic state. During these seasons the temperature is warmer and days longer increasing the probability of being outside and active.
Almost half of the patients that get diagnosed with bipolar disorder have history of substance abuse. The highest rate is associated with cocaine abuse. Cocaine has the tendency to cause physical highs and lows that relate to the manic and depression cycle of someone who has bipolar disorder. Alcohol will also cause patients to have a higher risk of relapsing, a negative effect to treatment medications, and even increased suicide risk. In most cases patients that have bipolar disorder have other psychiatric disorders as well. Disorders such as opposition defiant disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are the most common.
Currently there is no known cure for bipolar disorder however, there are various treatments to help control the disorder. One of the most effective treatments is medication that can lessen the effects of manic episodes as well as the depressive episodes. Another form of treatment is electroconvulsive therapy which has shown great results for patients that needed more than medication. Other forms of treatment range from acupuncture, specific diets, exercise, and psychotherapy.
There is a variety of medication that can be prescribed based on a patient’s severity of bipolar disorder. Most medications are based around a combination of mood stabilizers, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics. Anticonvulsants would be used for someone for long term regulation of their manic or depressive episodes. An antipsychotic such as benzodiazepines, would be used for someone with minor manic episodes along with mood stabilizers.
The electroconvulsive form of therapy has been a very successful form of treating both the mania and depression cycle. This form of therapy is only used for patients that have had no result to the medication and still suffer from severe depression and suicidal thoughts. The therapy is conducted under anesthesia and the patient is given a muscle relaxant to prevent convulsions. Electric pulses are then sent into the patient’s brain through electrodes. The electric current starts to alter the electrochemical processes of the brain which will relieve depression. Some side effects of this therapy can cause headaches, nausea, confusion, and possibly temporary memory loss.
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