There are about 2.4% of the world’s population diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In the United States, there are more than 2.3 million people who are suffering from this mental disorder. In the United Kingdom, there are almost 800,000 people afflicted with bipolar disorder while in China and India, there are about 12 – 15 million people living with the disorder. This is the picture of how many people are affected by this particular disorder.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental condition characterized by mania and depression which causes extreme mood swings and sometimes violent behaviour. In extreme cases, it may even lead to serious drug abuse problems and suicide. Bipolar disorder symptoms can affect a person’s social life, personal relationships, work or academic performance. It is a life-long illness which can be controlled with proper medication or treatment.
Bipolar disorder is classified into three types:
- Bipolar Disorder Type 1: This type is known as manic depression, characterized by severe mood swings manifested in alternating episodes of mania and depression. There will be at least one manic episode and many depressive episodes in a bipolar patient’s lifetime.
- Bipolar Disorder Type 2: This type is a milder version of Type 1 typified by less severe episodes of hypomania alternating with depression. Mood swings are not as extreme and intense as Bipolar Type 1 disorder. Symptoms may last from two to eight weeks but in some severe cases, the symptoms last up to several years, especially if untreated.
- Cyclothymic Disorder: This type is characterized by shorter periods of mild depression and elevated or high mood. They have less obvious mood swings.
- Mixed Bipolar Disorder: This type manifests a combination of manic and depressive symptoms. Patients diagnosed with this type may experience both manic and depressive symptoms at the same time. The change in moods happens one after the other in quick intervals.
What are the Causes of Bipolar Disorder?
Many known contributory factors to having this illness were based on numerous studies and research dedicated to this particular mental disorder. Some of the known causes of bipolar disorder include chemical imbalance, genetics and the environment.
Malfunctioning neurotransmitters are seen as one factor causing bipolar disorder. The signals received by the brain from these neurotransmitters are causing the brain to send out wrong messages in the form of very erratic behaviour and extremely violent mood swings.
Bipolar disorder is said to have genetic links. If one of the parents has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the child carries a 50% risk of having the symptoms which will trigger the disease.
Environmental conditions may also cause bipolar disorder. Exposure to alcohol and drugs, child neglect or abuse or anything that disrupts a person’s normal behaviour or emotion can lead to chemical imbalance in the brains which could eventually result to erratic and abnormal behavioural display.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder can have very disruptive and destructive effects on a patient’s life. The alternating swings of mania and depression are not easy to manage and cope with. The symptoms can be very perplexing and exhausting, easily draining the patient of both physical and emotional strength and stability. That is why it is important for a person with bipolar disorder to get the proper treatment which will control the onset of the manic and depressive symptoms.
Some of the most common treatment medications prescribed for those patients suffering from bipolar disorder are geodon, lithium, lamotrigine, gabapentin and topiramate. These medications may be combined with other medication or drugs for better results. However, only the doctors can prescribe which medication can help alleviate the symptoms being experienced by a patient. It is not advised and recommended for any of these drugs to be taken by the patient without consultation with the doctor.
Having a good understanding of this disorder and how difficult it can be for those who are suffering from it will give us a better perspective of our own lives and what impact we have on other people in the society. The social stigma suffered by bipolar patients will be lessened if people in the community will show their support and empathy. Removing environmental stressors like drugs and alcohol will be very helpful in controlling or even preventing the onset of the bipolar disorder symptoms. A supportive community will definitely have a positive impact in the life of a bipolar disorder patient, making it easier for the patient and their family to cope with the difficult situation.