Everything you need to know about bipolar disorder in four easy answers

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, involving periods of excessive excitability (mania) and periods of depression. These abrupt mood swings are not just normal ups and downs; they affect the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, damage relationships, and can result in suicide.

Who gets bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder affects both men and women equally, and it usually develops in a person’s late teens or early adulthood, with at least half of all cases beginning before age 25.  It results from disturbances in the areas of the brain that regulate mood; however, the exact cause is unknown. Although there does seem to be a slight genetic correlation.

What are the symptoms?

Those who have bipolar disorder experience intense “mood episodes” of mania and depression. A manic period will contain increased agitation, hyperactivity, difficulty sleeping, poor temper control, an over-inflated ego, and reckless behavior, among other things. Where as, when in a depressed phase, a person will be in a state of extreme sadness and hopelessness, with feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem and perhaps even suicidal thoughts (the same symptoms of depression).  Sometimes both symptoms of mania and depression are evident simultaneously.  It is also possible for someone with bipolar disorder to experience a long lasting period of instability, as opposed to varied, discrete episodes. Symptoms are so severe that the person cannot function normally at work, school, or home.  Some suffering from bipolar disorder may abuse alcohol or substances in an effort to self-medicate, and it is not easy to recognize these problems as signs of mental illness.  Also, because the highs and lows, and the forms they take, vary for each person, bipolar disorder is very difficult to diagnose.

How do you treat bipolar disorder?

Because bipolar disorder is also a recurrent illness, like schizophrenia, it is very crucial to find proper care and a treatment that is specified to the individual’s symptoms/disease pattern. There is no cure; however, a combination of medications (usually antidepressants and mood stabilizers) and psychiatric help is usually the recommended treatment, and has been very successful in managing the disorder.

**Got more questions?  This website is a great source for more in-depth information.  Joining a support group is not only helpful for those suffering from bipolar disorder, it also is an immense help to family and friends. Find out more information here.

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