Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disease, characterized by strongly fluctuating moods. One moment, a person can be very elated (mania) and the other moment very depressed (depression). Additionally, there are periods in which it is relatively quiet. The mood swings can be a major obstacle in daily life.
Heredity plays an important role in the development of a bipolar disorder. The condition is more common in some families. Other risk factors include:
Almost all people with a bipolar disorder have manic and depressive episodes.
Signs and symptoms of a manic episode are:
Signs and symptoms of a depressive episode are:
A manic episode lasts at least one week, a depressive episode at least two weeks. Some people have periods when they simultaneously have a mania and a depression (mixed episode). In most people, manic episodes and depressive episodes alternate. There are also periods in which one feels normal.
A bipolar disorder is difficult to recognize, not only for the person himself but also for the doctor. On average, it takes six years before the diagnosis is made. During a crisis, it is often ultimately clear that it’s a bipolar disorder. This is determined by a psychiatrist, based on a number of symptoms and with the aid of various questionnaires. In any case, a physical examination and blood tests are always performed, in order to establish that the symptoms are not caused by medication, drugs or any other condition. In addition, the story of the partner or immediate family completes the picture.
A bipolar disorder can be treated by psychotherapy and medication. Which form of therapy or medication the patient receives, will depend on the personal situation.
Psychotherapy usually includes talking with a psychotherapist. This doesn’t solve problems, but helps patients to see things differently and to tackle problems themselves. There are several forms of psychotherapy:
Drugs that can be used to treat a bipolar disorder are lithium, antidepressants, antipsychotics and valproic acid.
Bipolar disorder cannot be cured, but medications and therapies may reduce the symptoms or help prevent a new episode. Whether a patient recovers, depends on what has happened. Often, relationships are ended or someone is permanently disabled. Anyone who gets the disease at an early age, has less favorable prospects.
For someone with a bipolar disorder, stability is very important: