Do you know someone who is sometimes almost manic but at others seems depressed? Do their moods shift from a “high” to a “low”? If you do, then you might know someone who has what has been diagnosed as bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a serious illness that can affect ones relationships, careers and self. People with bipolar disorder swing between manic moods like exhibiting high energy, becoming very talkative, restless or reckless and becoming depressed exhibiting sadness, crying, lack of energy and sometimes sleep problems.
This disorder effects over 2 million people and occurs equally in men and women. Although the onset of bipolar disorder sets in during the early 20s there are often symptoms early in childhood. Some people have found a connection with BPD and ADHD.
Because BPD and ADHD symptoms are closely mirrored, BPD is hard to diagnose in young children. It is equally difficult to diagnose adolescents as this is typically a very unbalanced period in our development overall. It is difficult to discern if the adolescent is portraying normal behaviours or if the mood swings are symptoms of BPD. In adults, there are other problems that will most often occur in conjunction with BPD. About 60% of men and women also have problems with drugs or alcohol, seasonal depression and anxiety disorders.
Doctors are not completely sure what causes bipolar disorder. There is evidence however, that it is genetic and runs in families. There is also growing evidence that lifestyle and stress are contributors to BPD. Overall, medical experts have come to the conclusion that BPD is related to the chemicals produced by the brain. When the productions levels are higher, people feel a sense of mania. When levels are lower, that is when the lows, or depressions, set in.
There are ways to treat BPD. The most popular ways are with mood stabilizing drugs. These, combined with psychotherapy have proven to yield positive results. A few considerations need to be taken into account when taking medication. Children and young adults sometimes have heightened suicidal tendencies while on mood stabilizing drugs. Medications should be used under extreme caution or other measures of control should be put into practice for younger people diagnosed with BPD. Another thing to consider is that even though one may feel as though they have been “cured”, continuous therapy should be used.
A medical doctor, teamed with a psychiatrist to prescribe appropriate medications and a psychologist to assess mental health should provide a qualified team to affectively monitor and prevent the illness from worsening.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent BPD, especially since there is so much that needs to be learned about this illness. The best way to prevent or treat BPD is to be familiar with the symptoms. Symptoms of BPD include:
- Excessive happiness or hopefulness
- Restlessness coupled with a need for less sleep
- Racing thoughts
- High sex drive
- Inflated self-esteem
- Tendency to make larger than attainable plans
- Tendency to make rash or poor decisions such as the decision to quit a job
- Sad, anxious or irritability
- Lack of energy
- Increased need for sleep
- Change in appetite causing weight loss or gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Suicide attempt
If you feel that you, or someone you know, may have BPD, then it is important that you note the severity of the symptoms listed above and how long they last.
The most telling symptom of BPD however, is extreme mood swings of extreme highs and lows that do not follow a set pattern. BPD is not an illness that should be self-diagnosed however. If you suspect BPD seek medical attention as soon as possible from a psychiatrist or psychologist.
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