Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder which is characterized by episodes of depression and mania or mild non-psychotic excitement. This definition is also the explanation why it is also being called as the Manic Depressive Disorder. It causes mood swings from low depressions to high mania.
There is neither exact cause for the disorder nor an exact way of determining the condition. There may be a genetic link because most people who suffer from the condition have relatives in the same shoes or are suffering from depression. It is also associated with imbalance in brain chemicals, hormonal deficiencies, triggered by sleep deprivation, hypothyroidism, and the use of antidepressants.
Each subtype of bipolar disorder has different patterns of symptoms. Bipolar I Disorder includes mood swings that cause difficulty in the job, school or relationships. Bipolar II Disorder is less severe than the previous type and is characterized by elevated moods, irritability, and some changes in daily functioning. Persons with Bipolar II suffer from hypomania, which is less severe than mania and it lasts shorter than the depression. Cyclothymia is a mild form of the manic depressive disorder where depression and hypomania can be disruptive but the highs and lows are not as severe as the other two types.
Although the symptoms of the disorder may vary from person to person and some may find the manic phase more troublesome and some find the depression phase worse, there are a lot of common symptoms in a phase. Symptoms of the manic phase of bipolar disorder include euphoria, extreme optimism, inflated self-esteem, poor judgment, rapid speech, racing thoughts, aggressive behavior, agitation or irritation, increased physical activity, risky behavior, spending sprees or unwise financial choices, increased drive to perform or achieve goals, increased sex drive, decreased need for sleep, inability to concentrate, careless or dangerous use of drugs or alcohol, frequent absences from work or school, delusions or a break from reality, and poor performance at work or school.
The depressive phase of bipolar disorder displays the following symptoms: sadness, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, anxiety, guilty feelings, sleep problems, fatigue, loss of interest in daily activities, problems concentrating, irritability, chronic pain without a known cause, frequent absences from school or work, and poor performance at work or school.
Other symptoms of this condition include seasonal changes in the mood, which is also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Some people enter the manic phase during spring or summer and then get depressed during fall or winter. Another symptom is the rapid cycling bipolar disorder. This is having four or more mood swings in a year and for some people, mood shifts happen in a matter of hours.
Psychosis or the detachment from reality is the result of severe episodes of either mania or depression. Psychosis inhibits symptoms which are delusions and hallucinations. In some cases, the first sign of bipolar disorder is a psychotic break. For children and adolescents who have bipolar disorder, the symptoms can include explosive temper, rapid mood shifts, reckless behavior, and aggression. Younger children also display intense periods of giddiness and silliness, long bouts of crying and outbursts of explosive anger, plus a changing sleeping pattern.
It is very important to approach and ask for help from mental health providers like psychiatrists and psychologists when there are symptoms of bipolar disorder. They help through counseling and prescriptions to control the symptoms. The diagnosis of the disorder starts from a thorough review of medical history including the symptoms and a complete physical examination and mental health exam. Assessment tests are also conducted to make sure that the symptoms are not caused by treatable medical conditions.