Demystifying Bipolar Disorder

about-bipolar-dirorderWhat is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder (previously referred to as Manic Depressive illness) is a serious mental illness characterised by extreme Mood swings, irrational behaviour, phases of highs (up’s) and depression (lows).  Anyone can develop Bipolar Disorder and it is said to be an incurable although treatable illness. Lifelong medication might be a part of the treatment.

It cannot be neglected because the condition has a huge impact on a patient’s life: adversely affecting studies, career, relationships and health. It can be dangerous, too: Bipolars could have suicidal tendencies and through reckless behaviour cause hurt to themselves.

‘Illnesses of the Mind can be more difficult to understand and treat. The pain a mentally ill patient goes through is comparable to that of one suffering from an acute, incurable physical illness.’
Dr.David Burns- Feeling Good

What Causes Bipolar?

There are multiple causes of Bipolar and they are still being studied.

Genetics

Bipolar disorder tends to run in families. Children with a parent or sibling who has bipolar disorder are much more likely to develop the illness, compared with children who do not have a family history of bipolar disorder. However, most children with a family history of bipolar disorder will not develop the illness. But genes are not the only risk factor for bipolar disorder. Studies of identical twins have shown that the twin of a person with bipolar illness does not always develop the disorder, despite the fact that identical twins share all of the same genes. It is likely that many different genes and environmental factors are involved. However, scientists do not yet fully understand how these factors interact to cause bipolar disorder.

Brain structure and functioning

One study using MRI found that the pattern of brain development in children with bipolar disorder was similar to that in children with “multi-dimensional impairment,” a disorder that causes symptoms that overlap somewhat with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This suggests that the common pattern of brain development may be linked to general risk for unstable moods.

Another MRI study found that the brain’s prefrontal cortex in adults with bipolar disorder tends to be smaller and function less well compared to adults who don’t have bipolar disorder. The prefrontal cortex is a brain structure involved in “executive” functions such as solving problems and making decisions. This structure and its connections to other parts of the brain mature during adolescence, suggesting that abnormal development of this brain circuit may account for why the disorder tends to emerge during a person’s teen years.

Environmental Factors 

Extreme stress, trauma, acute/prolonged illnesses or financial pressures have also known to trigger Bipolar

What are its Symptoms?

Extreme mood swings from sad and hopeless to joyful, enthusiastic and overexcited.
Confusion, lack of focus or concentration.

The Energy levels also fluctuate according to the mood- fatigue experienced during a low phase, high energy levels during a Manic phase.

The three distinct phases are:
High (Manic when it is an extreme high): The Manic stage is characterised by elation, enthusiasm, high energy, irritability, less sleep, risky behaviour (including promiscuity), utopian thoughts and grandiose ideas, verbosity and rapid flow of ideas.

Low/Depressed: easily identifiable by sadness, hopelessness, long periods of inactivity, low self-esteem, low energy, fatigue and in some cases, suicidal tendencies.

Mixed Phases: When a patient could be experiencing both mania and depression at the same time.

It is not easy to diagnose Bipolar and it is often misdiagnosed as schizophrenia or depression. One can hardly blame the family members or friends when many Physicians fail to spot the early symptoms.

What is the currently available Treatment?

Bipolar is yet to be fully understood by Scientists and Doctors.
The current line of treatment usually is with the help of broadly two categories of Medicines and depending on severity of symptoms these might need augmentation. The medicines might be required to be taken lifelong.
Mood-stabilisers,  Anti-Depressants and or Anti-Psychotics as prescribed by a Psychiatrist

Note: Although a lot of research is available about the specific Drugs available, this site refrains from mentioning any to prevent self-medication or misinterpretation. Only your Psychiatrist is qualified to prescribe/change your medication.

Additional Therapies:
Counselling and more specifically, Psychotherapy is known to be highly effective in stabilising a patient along with medicines. This involves changing the negative thinking patterns of the patient.

Physical fitness, regular routines, stress management, Yoga and Meditation have a proven beneficial impact on not only Bipolar but overall quality of life.

There is always hope.
There are so many out there to help you, guide you.
All you need to do is take the small first step.

# Certain excerpts sourced from The National Institute of Mental Health website for the benefit of patients seeking more credible information on this condition.

  • Megha Sabharwal

    Life has made all of us bipolar in one or other way… the only difference is the level.. some are severe and some are controllable. But, we all are and will be 🙂

    • @meghasabharwal:disqus, what you are probably referring to is at the emotional level.
      Well yes and no.
      The despair and terror a Bipolar goes through is not what common mood changes are like in ‘normal’ persons.
      Yes, we all have our issues: the repercussions are severe for Bipolars and Schizophrenics.

      • Megha Sabharwal

        True 🙂

      • Prathibha P

        Yes, totally relate to what you are saying Vijay, I have been living a mother with Bipolar for almost all my life. Its been a traumatic journey and finally could accept her the way she is only few years ago. Though she is close to being 60 years young, she is like a blessing in disguise in our life to transform ourselves is my existential truth and that has helped me see the world in higher dimensions.

        She is like a kid with my 2 kids throwing tantrums yet an adult doing chores at home. My father commitment and his search to cure his own wife, turned an alternative therapist and me into a different role in life. LOVE from my little children and my acceptance of MY MOTHER, has changed her for her better after so many years!

        Initially, not even knowing what she had and why she behaved so erratically, now after decades, the puzzles fell in place. As Megha states above, I am definitely seeing a lot of psychosomatic illness on the rise but THE ONE WHO IS ABLE TO SEE WHAT HE/SHE IS GOING THROUGH AT THE DEEPER LEVEL & CONVERTING THAT ENERGY INTO SOMETHING CREATIVE & GIVING AWARENESS TO OTHERS, TRULY A BLESSED SOUL!!!

        Humble G R A T I T U D E ….for making this website BIPOLARINDIA!!!

        Hatsoff Victorious Vijay.

        • Thank you for sharing your experience~
          When one member of the family suffers from mental illness, she or he takes down the whole family. Their pain can also become unbearable.
          It is commendable that your father lovingly stood by her and nurtured her back to her feet.
          Yes, Spirituality helped me also tremendously to answer questions which troubled my soul.
          Glad that your mother has benefited from the love all of you shower upon her.
          Gratitude for your appreciation, @prathibhap:disqus~
          I am just a medium, He is the doer 🙂

  • The risk is more we know abut our body…. the more it becomes complex… The study of brain… thought is only source to know anything… the question is how a thought can no itself…. thought being product of memory, knowledge & experience…. how it can look at it…. to look at thought… everything created by thought too be wiped out…. (basic details will retained like names, relaltionships, etc)… That mind, free of memories… has extra-ordinary natural intelligence… Forgive me… All I am saying is a thinking mind is limited in its knowledge…

    • @Giveup_Prakash:disqus
      Complexity is subjective.
      Consciousness (the Soul) is the Knower, the silent Observer.
      It observes all thoughts, deeds, emotions and upheavals yet remains detached.
      Meditation is a great way to still our mind and reach this state of bliss.
      To me it is not about memories, it is about our ability to still the mind. To let go. To live in the moment mindfully.

  • prasad kumar

    its tough to accept

    • The condition is tough, therefore how we deal with it cannot be an easy path, @disqus_B9DoIP21Ga:disqus
      Perseverance, philosophical mindset and patience help overcome most questions that life can pose.

  • arjun

    i dont know if im suffering from it.