Recognizing the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

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Every life has its ups and downs. However, when the “ups” are too high and the “downs” are too low, and the swing between the two is too abrupt, bipolar disorder might be the diagnosis.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mood disorder that causes emotions, thoughts and behaviors to shift between deep depression and extreme agitation. These shifts may be rapid-cycling, changing as fast as within a day or two, or they might be slow enough to leave the sufferer mired at one end of the spectrum or the other for weeks or months on end.

Symptoms of Mania

Mania may manifest itself in emotions ranging from irritability and anger to euphoria and a sense of invincibility or grandiosity. Patients may exhibit unusual amounts of energy and drive, even as they are sleeping little to not at all. Thoughts are racing, and the person has great difficulty concentrating.

Many of these emotions can occur in the extreme, with behaviors damaging to the self and to families and loved ones. Sufferers may engage in impulsive or high risk behaviors, such as gambling, excessive spending or unsafe sex. Self-medication with drugs, and especially with alcohol, is common, usually as an attempt to lessen symptoms.

A form of extremely fast speech called “pressured speech” is common. This fast talking is a form of one-way communication, because the speaker will talk right over any attempts to interject or respond. Often, the speaker is talking too fast to be understood.

In severe cases the patient may suffer from hallucinations or delusions.

A milder form of mania is hypomania. Patients may function better with less severe symptoms, but may still be prone to bad decision-making and irresponsible behaviors.

Symptoms of Depression

Patients suffering from bipolar depression exhibit some of the same symptoms as those with other depressive disorders. However, certain symptoms are more common with bipolar depression, including irritability, erratic mood changes, and feelings of restlessness. Sufferers tend to think and speak more slowly and exhibit sluggishness, both physically and mentally. Weight changes can be significant.

Bipolar depression patients are more prone to disabling psychotic episodes, where they lose touch with reality. They show a marked difficulty in maintaining a job and retaining relationships. Patients are also at substantially greater risk of suicide than most who suffer depression.

Mixed Symptoms

Some sufferers of bipolar disorder experience a mixture of depressive and manic symptoms. These symptoms often include agitation or irritability, insomnia and extreme appetite changes, all occurring coincident with an elevated mood. Suicide is a major risk.

Treatment

The medications that work for other types of depression are relatively ineffective in treating bipolar depression. In fact, they can trigger episodes of mania or hypomania, or cause the patient to cycle rapidly between depression and mania.

Despite this, those who suffer the symptoms of bipolar disorder should seek treatment as soon as possible. Delays in treatment can result in an increasingly intense and potentially disabling experience of symptoms.

Sources: WebMD.com, Healthline.com and Helpguide.com

Image "Portret van der mann" by Gert Germeraad / Wikimedia Commons

 
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