Bipolar Symptoms and Phases of the Disorder

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While many of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder will experience a difference in severity of symptoms, the one thing which characterises all those who suffer is the occurrence of mood swings.

From a feeling of extreme depression to an intense, manic happiness, these mood swings vary in duration and acuity, sometimes lasting for weeks at a time. Other sufferers of bipolar disorder experience a drastic swing in moods much more often and nearly never enjoy a period of normalcy, also referred to as “rapid cycling”. Rapid cycling occurs more frequently in female patients.

Depression

The two extremes in mood are characterised by equally divergent symptoms. During the depression phase, the following emotions and physical indications may occur:

•    Sadness and hopelessness
•    Difficulty with concentration and memory
•    Little or no energy
•    Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
•    Empty, worthless feelings
•    Guilt and despair
•    Self-doubt
•    Pessimism
•    Inability to sleep through the night uninterrupted
•    Thoughts of suicide

Mania

On the other end of the scale, the manic phase, which usually occurs following two to four periods of depressions, is characterised by these symptoms:

•    Extreme happiness, euphoria, elation
•    Feeling energised
•    Rapid speech
•    A feeling of self-importance
•    Frequent distractions
•    Making plans and having a plethora of ideas
•    Irritation and agitation
•    Inability to sleep and eat
•    Gaining pleasure from destructive behaviour

Many of those who suffer from bipolar disorder are unaware of entering a manic phase. Anyone who disagrees with or attempts to curb the obvious extremes of behaviour is seen as acting in an unhelpful manner and is negatively viewed by the manic-depressive. Only after it has passed will the bipolar patient realise the inappropriateness of their conduct. It is obvious how such behaviour could make it very difficult to maintain employment and healthy personal relationships. The stress of this lifestyle often leads to thoughts of suicide.

Further Complications

In addition to these common symptoms of bipolar disorder, there are some further experiences which could occur, such as:

•    Alcohol and drug abuse
•    Hallucinations (auditory, visual, and olfactory)
•    Delusions (irrational beliefs)

Hallucinations and delusions are two symptoms which comprise a further condition known as psychosis, often seen in conjunction with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

For those who have been diagnosed with this illness, the most important factor in leading a normal life is following the advice of a qualified psychiatrist or physician under whose care they are being treated. Bipolar disorder will not simply go away but treatments are available to alleviate the symptoms.

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