What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by extreme mood swings. The mood swings can be extremely high or low. They can last a few hours, days, weeks or even months. The mood swings consist of mixed emotions both of extreme happiness or extreme depression.
Bipolar disorder is not a rare disorder. Almost 5 million people in the United States have this mental condition. Symptoms could start appearing in the late teens or early adulthood, and sometimes in childhood as well. Although it is not yet proven, women are more likely to suffer from this condition than men.
Bipolar disorder can be hard to diagnose and understand. Hence, learning about the various facts associated with this condition can help one identify the early signs and symptoms.
What are the types of bipolar disorder?
There are four common types of bipolar disorder although only two of these types are most commonly diagnosed. They are:
This is the most common type of bipolar disorder and is formerly known as manic depression. People with this type of bipolar disorder are often in the manic phase. They have extreme mood swings, which range from extreme happiness to sadness or anger. Such individuals may also need immediate hospitalization due to the severity of their condition.
However, depressive episodes also tend to occur, which usually last for a minimum of two weeks. Moreover, there is also a possibility that episodes of depression and manic symptoms occur at the same time.
This type of bipolar disorder has milder hypomania episodes, which tend to alternate with episodes of severe depression. These symptoms could be more difficult for people to discover and would require the support of friends and family to encourage the patient to recover from the condition. Hypomania can often worsen with no appropriate treatment leaving the person to become severely depressed or manic.
What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?
The symptoms of bipolar disorder range between extreme moods and are characterized by two main moods:
- Bipolar Depression: This is a state wherein a person is perpetually clouded with negative feelings of being sad, helpless, and worthless.
- Bipolar Mania: This condition, on the other hand, comes with feelings of extreme elation mixed with energy and enthusiasm. People suffering from this condition get very little sleep.
In some cases of the disorder, a person can have symptoms of both bipolar depression and mania simultaneously. The disorder is known to have mixed features of both.
Symptoms of Bipolar Depression
The depressive form of bipolar disorder normally shows the following symptoms:
- Feeling of being continuously sad or depressed
- Constant feelings of low self-esteem
- Crying all of a sudden
- Low levels of energy and a lack of enthusiasm towards anything in life
- Feelings of negativity, guilt, and helplessness
- Slow way of talking
- Unable to concentrate and lack of coordination
- Lack of sleep or excessive sleeping particularly at odd hours
- Suicidal tendencies
- Loss of appetite or binge eating
- Constant aches or pain all over the body
- Disinterest in everyday activities or rarely enjoy even when pursuing hobbies
Symptoms of Bipolar Mania
- Talking too much
- Scattered thoughts
- Too much ego
- Tremendous energy that may sometimes seem abnormal
- Lesser need for sleep
Is bipolar disorder treatable?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive cure or treatment for bipolar disorder. However, certain medications and behavioral counseling may help some of the patients lead a better life. Having said that, the truth still remains that bipolar disorder could be a complicated mental illness that could persist for almost a lifetime. Even once treated, there is always a risk of recurrent episodes. It is important for the patients to keep up with their medicines and doctor appointments as these both go hand in hand in helping them manage the disorder better and prevent serious episodes.
There are also certain groups that can help the patients and their family members to openly communicate and learn the proper ways to deal with someone suffering from bipolar disorder. Constant love, support, and positive encouragement are needed for the patient to effectively cope with the treatment. In fact, opting for some support from these groups increases the chances of recovery in many patients compared to those dealing with the condition on their own.
Bipolar disorder can be corrected with medications that help in stabilizing the moods of the affected person. If the mood-stabilizing medicines are not able to correct the symptoms, then other medicines may be recommended to ease the symptoms of mania or depression.
Apart from mood-stabilizing medicines, psychotherapy may also be suggested, which would help the patients cope with every stress-causing factor and persuade them to take their medicines appropriately.
Natural Remedies for Bipolar Disorder
According to research, certain herbs and supplements are extremely helpful in treating depression and stabilizing the moods. Some of them are:
1. Fish Oil
Bipolar disorder is seen less in countries where the majority of the population consumes fish and fish oil. According to some research studies, seafood consumption can help in reducing the instances of bipolar disorder. People with symptoms of depression are known to be deficient in omega-3s in their blood. Omega-3 fatty acids are also known as DHA and EPA, which are known to have a certain effect on the brain chemicals responsible for regulating people's moods. Treatment with omega-3 fatty acids help in:
- Reducing aggression and irritability
- Mood improvement
- Reducing the symptoms of depression
- Improving brain function
The required dosage of fish oil to help manage the disease ranges from 1 gram to 9 grams. However, consuming up to a gram of fish oil each day can also be helpful in treating the disorder.
2. Rhodiola Rosea
Also known as the "Arctic root" or "golden root", this herb is known to treat symptoms of mild to moderate forms of depression. Rhodiola rosea can also be used for the treatment of insomnia. However, check with your doctor before consuming this herb.
Certain research studies have indicated that the consumption of magnesium supplements can considerably help in reducing the symptoms of mania. However, more research is required in this field.
Apart from these herbs and supplements, certain therapies may also help in managing the symptoms of the disorder. Alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture are also known to be effective in some people.