What Is Bipolar Disorder?

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

The bipolar disorder, also commonly known as manic-depression, is a disorder which presents itself as unexpected, quick shifts in mood, energy level, and physical activity.

The two levels of functioning for the bipolar disorder is mania, which is demonstrated as happiness and euphoria, and depressive lows, which are demonstrated by sadness, unhappiness, and a loss of pleasure in life. While all people intermittently experience highs and lows in the course of their lives at some time or another, the highs and lows experienced by the individual suffering from bipolar disorder are more severe, the highs are higher and the lows are lower. Further, in the bipolar disorder, the shifts from high to low or vice versa come seemingly without motivation or causation and may reverse immediately without provocation.

In the interpersonal relations of bipolar individuals with other people, they are very unpredictable in their moods and reactions. While for most people, the shifts in mood may be only temporary, but with the bipolar disorder, they are permanent and repeated in patterns from high to low generally without predictability. For some bipolar individuals, the alternative moods may occur daily, even hourly in extreme cases, but for others, the mood swings may be a few times a year with the resulting moods lasting for some time.

The mood swings may also have other behavioural results. For example, while in a high state, the individual may drink alcohol or use drugs, go on shopping sprees spending far beyond their means, gamble excessively, or demonstrate other behaviours in excess. On the other hand, in the depressive state, they may sleep a lot, avoid other people, withdraw from social contacts, and even cry or express self-destructive motives. The highs may result in insomnia, overeating binges, and unstable social relationships. Because of their instability and the excesses of their mood swings, bipolar individuals may have difficulty with educational pursuits or employment.

Signs, Symptoms, Risk Factors:

The normal character of the bipolar personality is called the “control” mood. Highs and lows are identified as “mood episodes,” which can range from high levels of excitement and activity or very low periods of depression, inactivity, and hopelessness. Occasionally, the mood highs and lows may be relatively simultaneous, which is called “mixed state.” The mixed state fen produces a confusing series of feelings and behaviours, the effect of the rapidly contrasted highs and lows, agitation and inability to sleep along with also desires to do nothing. This confusion of states may result in the thought of suicides to “get off the roller coaster.”

Warning signals for bipolar disorder may be found in important and unexpected changes in lifestyle, in energy levels or unexpectedly alternative energy levels between high and low, increases in sleep or decreases in sleep patterns, and unexpected shifts in behaviour. Sometimes, the bipolar behaviours are accompanied by delusions or hallucinations which may lead to a misdiagnosis of other disorders, such as schizophrenia. Often, the symptoms of bipolar disorder become apparent in the late teen years or in the early 20s, typically before the age of 25. However, other cases may arise in childhood or after the 20s.

Bipolar disorder types:

To match the professional diagnosis of bipolar disorder, the identified symptoms must demonstrate a significant shift from what had been considered to be “normal” behaviour for the individual. There are four basic types of bipolar disorder:

  1. Bipolar 1 Disorder is diagnosed by manic or mixed episodes lasting for at least seven days or by the occurrence of severe manic episodes requiring medical attention.
  2. Bipolar 2 Disorder is diagnosed as the result of hypo manic or depressive episodes but without mixed or manic episodes.
  3. Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS) is diagnosed when symptoms of bipolar behaviour are identified but in patterns that do not fit the definitions or criteria for #1 or #2 Bipolar Disorders.
  4. Cyclothymic Disorder or Cyclothymia are mild forms of bipolar disorder identified by relatively light episodes of depression or hypomania and which have lasted for at least two years. These symptoms are not severe enough to satisfy the requirements for the types #1, #2, or #3 above.

The assessment by a professional psychologist can identify the presence and severity of bipolar disorder. Once diagnosed, psychological counselling can contribute to a reduction of the incidence of alternating episodes and of the disruptive behavioural effects of the depressive or manic states. The insight gained through psychological counselling also contributes to a better understanding on the part of the individual with bipolar disorder providing increased awareness, insight, and control.