All of us experience times when we are sad and feeling down, and times when we feel happy and excited about life and this is perfectly normal. However, when these highs and lows are extreme, then it could be an indication of bipolar mental health disorder, which is also sometimes referred to as manic depression.
What is Bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme changes in mood and behaviour where the sufferer experiences episodes of mania followed by episodes of depression, in other words ‘highs’ and ‘lows’.
Many people who have Bipolar disorder are also highly intelligent and extremely creative, even gifted. However, the disorder can also wreck lives and can sometimes result in suicide.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder can range from very mild to extremely severe, everyone’s experience will be different. However, most people with Bipolar find that their symptoms follow a pattern and depending on that pattern will fall into one of the following different types of bipolar disorder.
• Bipolar 1 – Mood swings with episodes of depression and extreme mania
• Bipolar 2 – Mood swings with episodes of depression and milder mania
• Cyclothymic Bipolar – Mild mood swings
• Mixed Bipolar – involves episodes of both depression and mania occurring simultaneously
• Rapid Cycling Bipolar – where there are four or more episodes of depression and mania occurring within a 12 month period.
What happens during the’ highs’ and ‘lows’?
During episodes of mania the individual may feel capable of tackling anything, can be extremely optimistic about their abilities and have an inflated idea of their own importance and power.
During these so called “highs” the bipolar sufferer may find they need very little sleep, have an increase in energy, are hypersexual, restless, and easily distracted. There may be psychosis too.
They can also be highly creative with many brilliant ideas. A person going through a manic phase may have racing thoughts and talk very fast, sometimes incoherently, and might become frustrated when others can’t keep up with them.
On the other hand they can show bizarre behaviour, poor judgement and decision making skills which can mean impulsive and extravagant spending, grandiose thinking, wild adventures, and inappropriate actions. Feelings of euphoria, excitement and extreme optimism are common.
In complete contrast, during a depressive episode the individual may feel sad and hopeless, guilty, tired, unable to concentrate, may lose their appetite be unable to sleep or function, and feel like their life is not worth living. There is a higher risk of suicide during a depressive episode.
How is Bipolar disorder treated?
Treatment for bipolar will usually consist of mood stabilising drugs, anti psychotics if psychosis is present, and sometimes anticonvulsants. Psychological therapies have also proved effective for many sufferers, particularly with helping them to cope with their illness on a daily basis.
The essential Omega 3 fatty acid Eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA has also been gaining increasing recognition for being effective at helping to alleviate the symptoms of bipolar disorder and research studies are continuing to highlight the benefit that EPA can have not just for bipolar disorder but for other mental health problems too.Learn how I beat Depression