Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder, or mental illness, that causes changes in mood, as well as activities, and leads to extreme energy levels. It is also called bipolar affective disorder and manic-depressive disorder.
When people have bipolar disorder, their changes in mood are magnified and often difficult to predict. They may go from being extremely happy and energetic one moment to sad, fatigued and confused the next. Manic episodes, in which a person has a long period of very irritated or very excited behavior, are always present in bipolar disorder. Sometimes, the mood swings are so strong that they can lead to depression or even suicide.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
Though researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes bipolar disorder, there does appear to be a genetic component to the illness. If a family member has it, then you are more likely to develop it yourself. Other research has shown that there are subtle differences in the brains of those who have bipolar disorder when compared with those of healthy individuals or people with other types of mental problems.
Bipolar disorder cannot be cured, but with care and treatment, people can manage their condition well enough to lead a healthy and productive life. However, bipolar disorder is a lifelong issue, so care must be continuous for it to be effective.
One part of treatment for bipolar disorder is usually a regimen of medication to treat the symptoms. The drugs that are often prescribed for bipolar disorder include antidepressants, atypical antipsychotics and mood stabilizers. It may take some time to find the right medications for a person with bipolar disorder, so patients are encouraged to track what medication they are on and how it affects their life.
The other critical component of treatment for bipolar disorder is psychotherapy. These sessions may focus solely on the needs of the individual, or they may include family-focused therapy or group therapy to help work through the issues related to bipolar disorder.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Mental Health; American Psychological Association.