Bipolar disorder or bipolar affective disorder (historically known as manic-depressive disorder) is a disruptive mood disorder characterized by extreme changes in mood from depression to mania.
What exactly is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy and activity levels. Someone diagnosed with the condition experiences swings in mood from periods of overactive, excited behaviour known as mania to those of low mood - depression. Between these severe highs and lows can be stable times. Everybody experiences mood shifts in daily life, but with bipolar disorder these changes are extreme and disruptive.
Some people may also experience psychotic symptoms causing them to develop strange, unshared, beliefs (delusions) and or see or hear things that others around them don't (hallucinations).
What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?
Symptoms depend on which mood is being experienced. Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks or longer, and some people may not experience a "normal" mood very often. Manic episodes include feeling excessively happy and ambitious, talking quickly and becoming annoyed easily and reduced sleep requirement. It may also include symptoms of psychosis with abnormal beliefs and hallucinations.
During the depressive phase, feelings turn to overwhelming sadness and worthlessness, a loss of energy and pleasure and disrupted sleep.
What treatment is there for bipolar disorder?
Bipolar affective disorder is a lifelong condition but treatment can help control symptoms and help people affected to lead a normal life.
Most people with bipolar benefit from mood stabilisers. Although they cannot cure bipolar disorder, they can help to manage symptoms. The drugs used include lithium, anticonvulsants and antipsychotics. Anti-depressants are also sometimes used to treat symptoms of depression.
Counselling & Therapy.
Talking as well as family-based therapies can be especially helpful for individuals with bipolar disorder. Working with a psychotherapist can provide an opportunity to discuss emotional highs and lows with a trained professional who can help them explore different strategies to manage these emotions and the associated behaviors. In particular, cognitive behaviour therapy helps people to identify and change the way they think and modify behavior to reduce stress and for relapse prevention.
Group Therapy and Day Care.
Group therapy can be very helpful for people with bipolar disorder. It provides a space to learn coping skills, share concerns and receive encouragement and helps patients to feel less isolated as a result. When people with similar problems are brought together, they can share their thoughts and feelings with each other which can result in a very powerful and positive experience. It also provides an opportunity for patients to explore and understand their condition to better manage it for themselves. Group therapy in a day care setting can also be a useful intervention as a step down after a period of in-patient care. This allows for the patient to re-integrate with their family whilst receiving talking treatments and regular medication reviews.
In Patient Care.
This is often required in the acute phase where behavior consequent upon mania or depression can place the individual or others at risk. The patient receives supervised care in a safe environment until ready to step down for treatment on a day care or out-patient basis.
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