What Is Bipolar Depression?
Bipolar disorder, which is also called manic-depressive disorder, is a mental health condition where the sufferer goes through cycles of manic and depressive states. The shifts in mood are very unusual and extreme, resulting in difficulty carrying out normal day-to-day functions. There are numerous celebrities who are known to struggle with bipolar disorder. These include Mariah Carey, Carrie Fisher, Demi Lovato, Mel Gibson, Russell Brand, Kurt Cobain, and Jimi Hendrix, among others. While untreated bipolar disorder can be scary for the sufferer and their loved ones, it is something that can be managed with appropriate treatment.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
There are four types of bipolar disorder. Each diagnosis includes episodes of highs (mania) and lows (depression) typical of bipolar disorder, however with some differences.
- Bipolar I disorder involves at least one manic episode that is either followed by or preceded by a hypomanic or major depressive episode.
- Bipolar II disorder is diagnosed in someone with at least one hypomanic episode and one major depressive episode, but never a fully manic episode.
- Cyclothymic disorder is diagnosed in individuals who have experienced at least two years (or one year in children) of cycles of depression and hypomania. The depressive episodes are less severe than major depressive disorder.
- Other types include bipolar disorder that is brought on by alcohol or drug use.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
The main symptoms of bipolar disorder are periods of mania and depression. But what exactly does that mean? Here are some common signs to look out for.
Mania Symptoms (these are less severe in hypomanic states):
- Increased energy and agitation
- Strangely jumpy
- Racing talk
- Unusually talkative
- Feeling unusually high and euphoric
- Decreased sleep but still highly energetic
- Poor decision-making and impaired judgment
- Impulsiveness and recklessness
- Unable to concentrate
- Unusually high libido
- Sometimes drug and alcohol use
- Some people also feature psychosis in a manic state, experiencing hallucinations and delusions
Depressive Symptoms (includes at least 5 of these symptoms in a major depressive episode):
- Feeling hopeless, helpless, extreme sadness, irritability
- Loss of energy and fatigue
- Not enjoying things they used to enjoy
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Appetite changes
- Weight changes
- Uncontrollable crying and tearfulness
- Unable to focus or make decisions
- Thoughts of suicide and death
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder affects an estimated 3% of Americans. Equal rates of men and women suffer from bipolar disorder. Usually, it is diagnosed during adolescence or people in their early 20s. Bipolar disorder is believed to have a strong genetic component, which appears to account for 60 to 80% of cases. Studies involving twins found that identical twins are 40% likely to both have bipolar disorder versus only 5% likelihood in fraternal twins.
Environmental factors likely also play a role in the development of bipolar disorder. Between 30 to 50% of adults with bipolar disorder were abused as children or experienced other traumatic events. This also affects the age of onset, as earlier bipolar onset was noted in cases where children were abused or experienced trauma. They also have a higher chance of suicide attempts and concurrent PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Some people experience bipolar disorder as a result of a neurological disease or injury. For example, an increase in bipolar disorder diagnoses may be seen in someone who has experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Stroke, porphyria, HIV, and multiple sclerosis (MS) may also impact the chance of developing bipolar disorder.
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder requires lifelong management but you may have periods of partial or full recovery with treatment. Often, the person with bipolar disorder does not notice the full extent of their symptoms and realize how bad they are. If you or a loved one think you may have bipolar disorder, it is best to speak with a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication for you to effectively balance your moods. Even if you feel like you are better, it is crucial that you continue taking your medications. Sometimes, bipolar disorder requires hospitalization, such as if you have a period of psychosis. An estimated 50% of people with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide in their lifetime. Medication and psychotherapy can help.