Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition known for extreme mood shifts such as severe emotional highs and extreme lows. A person with the condition experiences unpredictable shifts in moods, energy, and the ability to perform everyday activities. They may have moments of extreme happiness and feeling lowness characterized by sadness, sluggishness, and hopelessness. The highs and the lows are referred to as the two poles of the mood, hence the name, bipolar disorder. In between these extreme points, however, people with the condition are normal and behave normally. Many practitioners have classified the illness as one of the most complex mental disorders that are especially difficult to manage. For this reason, the condition has drawn significant attention from various concerned parties who continue to study its different dimensions.
Signs and Symptoms
People with the condition display varying intense emotions, unusual (and sometimes) frightening behaviors, changes in activity levels and sleep patterns. The dramatic episodes of highs and lows are common; however, they are not predictable. Sometimes, the victims might display periods of elevated moods, known as manic/hypomanic episodes (Grande, Berk, Birmaher, & Vieta, 2016). These episodes are characterized by speaking rapidly, racing thoughts, reduced need for sleep, restlessness, impulsiveness, excessive excitement, and very high sex drive among others. Manic/hypomanic episodes can last for months if they are not attended to effectively.
The other symptom of the conditions are moments of lowness where a patient experiences depressive phases. Signs at this phase include low energy, the feeling of sadness, reduced activity levels, difficulty sleeping, feeling of worry, and emptiness. In severe cases of depression, a person might exhibit worrying behaviors like hallucinations and delusions. The phase lasts about two weeks but can lead to a tendency of suicide if not managed. At other times, a person with bipolar might show mixed episodes of both manic and depressive phases which also accounts as a symptom.
The extent of the Condition
The numbers portraying the extent of bipolar in the United States are worrying. The disorder affects about 5.7 million adult Americans translating to almost 2.7 percent of Adult Americans per year according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Children are more at risk of developing the condition since it is hereditary. That said, close to 3.4 million children and adolescents have developed severe bipolar disorder with a majority of them inheriting from their parents. On a global scale, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the disorder is one of the leading causes of disability. An interesting fact about bipolar disorder is it does not discriminate like most of the other illnesses; statistics reveal that it equally affects people from all races, age, gender, socioeconomic classes, and ethnic groups (Douglas et al., 2018). A survey of the disorder on a global perspective reveals that bipolar disorder is similar across the world. However, developed nations report slightly higher cases of the mental illness than the developing countries.
The causes of mental illness vary, and the underlying mechanisms for their causation remain unclear. The causes of bipolar disorder are genetic, environmental, and neurological factors. Studies such as that of Grande, Berk, Birmaher, and Vieta (2016) point towards genetic influences as the leading cause of bipolar and account for between 60 and 80 percent of risk factors for developing the illness. Life experiences and immediate environment a person is exposed to may work closely with genetic dispositions to result in the development of the disorder. Traumatic events like accidents, abuse, war, and the likes increase chances of bipolar. Neurological dimensions of a person contribute to the development of the illness. For instance, neurological conditions such as stroke, porphyria, sclerosis, and HIV infection among others may cause bipolar.
Diagnosis, Prevention, and Treatment
Bipolar is one of the most difficult mental disorder to diagnose and ascertain. Doctors have come a long way comprehending various symptoms of the disorder. For a long time, due to shared signs and symptoms, physicians have confused bipolar to other disorders like schizophrenia, hypomania, or unipolar depression until recently. The diagnosis of the condition involves closely monitoring the symptoms including their length, severity, and frequency (Craddock & Sklar, 2013). The additional activity involves interviewing a patient on personal and family history on mental health. The data gathered from the assessment is analyzed to identify the illness accurately.
“Prevention is better than cure” is a popular slogan in the medical field aimed at determining and preventing illnesses and diseases. Michael Berlin et al. (2014) remark that, despite the growing need, there is no guaranteed method of preventing bipolar disorder largely because of the complexities of the factors contributing to the illness. However, the authors go further to argue that early detection of the disorder and immediately seeking medical intervention can prevent worse cases of the condition. Prevention, in this view, therefore, involves paying close attention to warning signs, avoiding illicit drugs, and taking medications.
The good news is the disorder is manageable including in its extreme form. Treatment centers on gaining control of the severe mood swings and other symptoms and mostly include medications and psychotherapy. Medications like mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and atypical antipsychotics can help patients gain control of the disorder. Psychotherapy is usually coupled with medications to ensure effectiveness. The approach focuses on supporting, educating, and guiding patients and their families through the disorder. Psychoeducation, family-focused therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are some of the strategies used in psychotherapy. Additional treatment options might include sleep medications, electroconvulsive therapy, and keeping life chart.
Complications and Prognosis
Lack of treatment or lifelong severe conditions of the disorder can have major health implications on a patient. People with the worst cases of mental disorder experience declining cognitive and physical functioning. When a person experiences the extreme episodes (manic or depressive), they are incapable of basic psychosocial functioning (Craddock & Sklar, 2013) and this explains why students with the condition perform poorly in schools with the working population diagnosed with the disorder displaying poor work performance.
Drug abuse, damaged relationships, and financial/legal troubles are some of the complications a person with bipolar might experience. Drug abuse, mostly alcohol use, arise during the depressive episodes as a step to manage stress or the manic phases to fulfill their excitement. Persistent symptoms affect a person’s ability to make sound judgment and make good decisions. Because of this, a majority suffer from financial and legal troubles with difficulty maintaining a good relationship with their friends and families.
Even with treatments, some people will still display symptoms of bipolar disorder. It is a severely disabling medical condition with high probabilities of recurrence. It one of the conditions characterized as illnesses with low recovery rate, poor functioning, and high rate of recurrence (Craddock & Sklar, 2013). Cases of individuals exhibiting weaker symptoms of the disorder despite taking their medications and adhering to other forms of treatments have been reported. The recurrence of the problem, however, arises from inconsistent sleeping patterns, lowering or discontinuing medications, insufficient stress management, and poor lifestyle choices among others.
Suicide and mortality are common complications among people with bipolar. Extreme depressive episodes can result in suicidal ideation which then can result in suicidal attempts. Studies reveal that 50 percent of people with bipolar attempt suicide at least once in their lifetime with many succeeding at it. The suicide rate among people with disability stands at 0.4 percent averaging at 15 times that of the general population (Craddock & Sklar, 2013). Apart from causing disability, bipolar disorder has high mortality among people suffering from various mental disorders.
Bipolar disorder is a troubling
mental disorder with a long list of implications to people living with the
condition and people in their immediate environment. Unlike other conditions
that are easily preventable, the prevention rate of the disorder is
significantly low making. Also, the current approaches employed in diagnosing
the illness do not guarantee accuracy. Therefore, despite the impressive
milestone accomplished, a lot needs to be
done to addressing the growing concern that is the bipolar disorder. The
analysis establishes that genetic factors mainly contribute to bipolar cases,
with the current numbers of adults with bipolar in the United States, the
nation faces a worrying future.
Berk, M., Berk, L., Dodd, S., Cotton, S., Macneil, C., Daglas, R., … & Malhi, G. S. (2014). Stage managing bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorders, 16(5), 471-477.
Craddock, N., & Sklar, P. (2013). Genetics of bipolar disorder. The Lancet, 381(9878), 1654-1662.
Douglas, K. M., Gallagher, P., Robinson, L. J., Carter, J. D., McIntosh, V. V., Frampton, C. M., … & Porter, R. J. (2018). Prevalence of cognitive impairment in major depression and bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorders, 20(3), 260-274.
Grande, I., Berk, M., Birmaher, B., & Vieta, E. (2016). Bipolar disorder. The Lancet, 387(10027), 1561-1572.