Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms & Treatment

Bipolar Disorder is a longstanding and chronic mood disorder that can significantly impact the life of the affected individual. This is one such condition which relapses and remits but the periods of relapses are more than periods of remission. This is the reason why people with bipolar disorder find it tough to function normally in a social environment either at workplace or at school or college. An individual with bipolar disorder will have extremes to two emotional states namely manic and depressive. Even though the symptoms of manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder are quite pronounced, most of the time they stay in the depressive mode. This is according to various studies done by researchers on bipolar patients.[1]

Even though various breakthroughs have been made with regard to coming up with new approaches to control the symptoms of bipolar depression this condition still remains undertreated or there is not enough benefit that the patient gets from these clinical trials. This calls for further research with regard to the therapeutic agents that are used to treat bipolar disorder in order to make decisions based on concrete evidence with regard to the effectiveness of the agent.[1]

Studies about the latest developments with regard to effectiveness of the latest treatment approaches for bipolar disorder are still controversial than the treatment approaches that have been developed for manic episodes of bipolar disorder. However, the response to these treatment strategies may be different for different patients. Coming to the symptoms of bipolar disorder, they are quite similar to other mood disorder which is precisely the reason why bipolar disorders are a tough condition to diagnose.[1]

Bipolar disorder is a condition which stays with the affected individual throughout the life. However, if treated appropriately the symptoms can be controlled significantly such that the patients can lead a productive life with little if any symptoms. This article gives a brief overview of some of the symptoms of bipolar depression and different ways to manage the condition.[1]

What Are The Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder?

The presenting features of bipolar disorder are different depending on the type. As stated, an individual with bipolar disorder spends more time in depressive state that manic even though the frequency of interchange between manic and depressive episode may differ in frequency. An individual with bipolar I disorder will have depressive episodes that lasts for at least two weeks or more; however, the severity of the depressive episodes in bipolar I disorder is not that much.[2]

However, people with bipolar II disorder will always have a major depressive episode followed by a state of hypomania. An individual with bipolar depression will experience extremely low mood. The patient will have a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. He or she will be extremely irritable and may tend to get angry for small matters. The individual will lose interest in doing anything and will be continuously fatigued and lethargic. He or she will have a tough time focusing on a particular task and will find it difficult concentrating.[2]

The patient will also have a significant decline in appetite and sleeping peacefully will be a tough job. Suicidal ideations and at times even attempts are quite common for people with bipolar depression. The intensity of the symptoms of bipolar depression is quite variable and differs from individual to individual. While some people get through with the symptoms of depression quicker, there are patients where the depressive episodes last for a prolonged period of time.[2]

In some cases, people who are in the manic phase may also have depressive symptoms. These are called mixed symptoms of bipolar disorder. Over time people with bipolar disorder almost always end up having several complications which includes diabetes, obesity, metabolic abnormality, and sexual problems. The severity of these complications can be very high. A study on the complications of bipolar disorder opined that the life expectancy of an individual with bipolar disorder gets short by about 10 years when compared to people who do not have this condition.[2]

How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?

However, with treatment majority of the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be significantly controlled and even decrease the risk of the individual ending up having these complications mentioned above. The main aim of treatment for bipolar disorder is to make the mood of the patient more stable thus controlling the symptoms. The treatment also aims at providing a better life to the patients so that they can be productive in their profession or school or college. This is usually done by a combination of medications and psychotherapy.[2]

Antidepressants and mood stabilizers are the most preferred medications given for treatment of bipolar depression. Lithium and fluoxetine are proven to be quite effective in treating symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, these medications have significant side effect profile and thus regular monitoring of the patient is required while they are on these medications. In addition to the medications, psychotherapy has also shown good effectiveness in controlling the symptoms of bipolar disorder.[2]

Psychotherapy is a good way to provide support to patients with bipolar disorder as they can relay their feelings to others and hear them about different strategies they adopt to control the symptoms. The best form of psychotherapy by far is cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of therapy is especially beneficial for those who find medications ineffective. For severe cases of bipolar depression, electroconvulsive therapy is also found to be extremely beneficial. This therapy involves use of electric current for inducing a seizure which is believed to improve the symptoms of bipolar disorder. How this happens is something that researchers are not sure of.[2]

The National Institute of Mental Health opines that new techniques employed by physicians for ECT treatments have shown a lot of promise in treating variety of mental health conditions at least during the trial phase. Aside from all the positive aspects of ECT treatments, there are also certain side effects that an individual may have following an ECT. These include headaches, pain in the stomach, muscle pains, and problems with memory.[2]

As of now, more research is being done to find new strategies for in the form of medications, therapies, and lifestyle modifications that can be employed to decrease the symptoms of bipolar depression. It is also essential for physicians to monitor bipolar patients to look for any signs of complications like diabetes or cardiovascular illnesses that are quite common in people with chronic bipolar disorder.[2]

To sum it up, bipolar disorder is a phase of bipolar disorder in which the affected individual has episodes where he or she will have periods of extreme depression. The individual will feel helpless and hopeless and will not find interest in being involved in any task. The patient will also have an irritable mood and will get angry for small causes. This tends to impact the social and personal relationships of the individual. Studies have suggested that people with bipolar disorder tend to have more periods of depressive episodes than manic episodes.[1,2]

The studies also state bipolar disorder is a difficult condition to diagnose since the symptoms caused by it are quite similar to those caused by various other mood disorders. However, once a diagnosis is confirmed and treatment has started the symptoms of bipolar depression can be controlled significantly. The treatment for depressive episodes involves mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and psychotherapy.[1,2]

Among the various forms of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and is the most preferred as it allows the patient to speak about his symptoms to other people with the same disorder. It also allows the patient to listen to how other people cope up with the symptoms of depressive episodes in bipolar disorder. In severe cases of bipolar disorder, electroconvulsive therapy is used in which a seizure is induced on the patient with the use of electric current which results in improvement of symptoms.[1,2]

The mechanism as to why this happens is still a matter of research. Thus a patient with bipolar depression, if diagnosed and treated adequately, can be appropriately managed to prevent any complications that may arise due to chronic bipolar disorder.[1,2]

A patient with chronic bipolar disorder may end up with diabetes or cardiovascular illnesses in the long run if the condition is not adequately treated and the patient is not monitored for signs of these conditions.[1,2]

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