Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive disorder refers to psychiatric condition that entails varied mood swings whereby an individual experiences episodes of intense mood swings.
These mood swings are different from the normal mood swings because they are so intense such that they interfere with normal body functioning ((Maj, Akiskal and Lopez-Ibor, 2002, p. 6). The episodes involved here range from extreme levels of mania to the extreme lows of depression. As a result, there is a budge in energy, behavior, and thinking affecting an individual negatively.
Until now, there has not been any established cause of bipolar disorder. However, researches indicate that this disorder may result from imbalances in neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that if not balanced throws mood-regulating mechanisms off balance leading to mood swings.
There have been speculations that this condition maybe genetically inherited which acts as a predisposing factor. Generally, these causes are believed to be of genetic, biochemical and environmental nature (Maj, Akiskal and Lopez-Ibor, 2002, p. 520). There is a strong link between bipolar disorder and depression. Substance abuse may also lead to this condition.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of this disorder vary in different situations in terms of frequency, severity, and pattern. This disorder occurs in four phases each with characteristic signs. The four phases, which also qualify as types are; mania, hypomania, depression and mixed episodes ((Maj, Akiskal and Lopez-Ibor, 2002, p. 522).
During the mania phase, individuals have increased energy levels accompanied by euphoria and creativity. Individuals experiencing this phase are hyperactive, extroverted and they rarely sleep. They dream big and think that they are invincible. However, despite these feelings of greatness, this phase gets out of control easily. Individuals may become unrealistic, unable to concentrate and this often leads to delusions and hallucinations.
Hypomania, which is a less form of mania as the name suggests, does not get to the extremes of mania. Though individuals experience similar symptoms as those of mania, they do not lose touch with reality and they are almost normal. This is the transition stage between mania and depression and it can progress either way.
The depression phase is marked by hopelessness, sadness, tiredness, irritation coupled with mental and physical lethargy. Additionally, individuals may experience insomnia, loss of appetite. Combination of these conditions leads to feelings of hopelessness and at times is suicidal.
The mixed episode phase entails a mixture of depression, mania, and hypomania feelings. This mixture is the greatest predisposing factor of suicide amongst bipolar mania victims.
Diagnosis and Assessment
Diagnosis includes a doctor taking medical history of the patient including existence of the same in the family history. There is also physical examination to rule out other conditions like AIDS, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and diabetes among others. These conditions produce symptoms similar to those of bipolar disorder.
In absence of any other disease, an individual can be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, given the complexity of the condition, it may be very difficult to diagnose an individual with bipolar disorder and it may take well over 10 years before doing a complete diagnosis (Cassano, Dell’Osso and Frank, 1999, p. 320). Getting early diagnosis reduces the aforementioned risk of suicide among others like divorce and truancy.
While there are no known clear-cut prevention methods, susceptible individuals can be trained to notice early signs of mood swing episodes. After detecting any early sign, it is advisable to seek medical advice to prevent escalation of the condition leading to either mania or depression.
Individuals should continue taking medicines to full dosage even after their moods have stabilized to prevent unnecessary recurrence. Victims should not expect treatment to fix all their problems; contrary, they should live healthy lifestyles that support sanity of mind and well-being. Avoid antidepressants for they have been known to lead to depression and mania.
Bipolar disorder treatment is highly recommended. Research indicates that treating primary episodes, which prevents progression to mania or depression, is one of the greatest goals an individual can achieve. Treatment involves administration of lithium and lamictal to stabilize mood (Cassano, Dell’Osso and Frank, 1999, p. 321).
Additionally, psychotherapy comes in handy in overcoming stress, depression, mania and mixed episodes. Counseling helps largely especially when individuals have lost touch with reality and is over ambitious. Currently researchers are working on acupuncture to introduce it as an alternative treatment of bipolar condition.
Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disorder that entails varied episodes of mood swings. There are four main phases of this condition and they include; mania, hypomania, depression, and mixed episode phase. Mania is the extreme whereby one is excited while depression is the other extreme whereby one slumps into apathy and may lead to suicide. Hypomania is the transition point between mania and depression while mixed episode phase entails conditions of all other phases.
The most important thing that an individual can do is to live lifestyles that support sound mindfulness. Bipolar disorder is a condition of the brain and as long as an individual can practice sanity and remain in touch with reality then the challenge of this disorder becomes surmountable.
Cassano, B., Dell’Osso, L., & Frank, E. (1999). The Bipolar Spectrum: A Clinical Reality
In Search Of Diagnostic Criteria and an Assessment Methodology. Journal Of Affective Disorders 54(6):319-328
Maj, M., Akiskal, H., & Lopez-Ibor, J. (2002). Bipolar Disorder. West Sussex: John and Wiley Sons. Retrieved 4 Feb. 2010, from,