What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a persistent mood disorder with recurring episodes of mania and depression. A manic state is characterised by feelings of extreme irritability and/or euphoria, and during an episode of mania several other symptoms can occur at the same time, such as agitation, surges of energy, reduced need for sleep, talkativeness, pleasure seeking and increased risk-taking. Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks (or even longer), and some people may not experience a “normal” mood very often. The high and low phases of bipolar disorder are often so extreme that they interfere with everyday life.
The depression phase of bipolar disorder is often diagnosed first. A depressive state consist of feelings of extreme sadness, hopelessness and lack of energy as in depression. During an episode of depression, overwhelming feelings of worthlessness can potentially lead to thoughts of suicide. It is important that you contact your doctor, care co-ordinator, the Samaritans of Singapore
or any local emergency services you’re feeling suicidal or having severe depressive symptoms.
During the manic phase of bipolar disorder, feelings of extreme happiness are often accompanied by lots of ambitious plans and ideas. Spending large amounts of money on things, not eating or sleeping normally, talking quickly and becoming annoyed easily are also common characteristics of this phase.
People in the manic phase feel very creative and often view the manic phase of bipolar as a positive experience. However, these may be accompanied by symptoms of psychosis – where what is being seen or heard does not actually exist – in extreme cases.
How does Bipolar Disorder develop?
As with many mental conditions, the exact causes of bipolar disorder are unknown. Still, several things are believed to be triggers to an episode. Extreme stress, overwhelming problems and life-changing events are thought to contribute, as well as genetic and chemical factors.
Bipolar disorder is fairly common and one in every 100 adults will be diagnosed with the condition at some point in their life. Bipolar disorder can occur at any age, although it often develops between the ages of 18 and 24. Men and women from all backgrounds are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder. The pattern of mood swings in bipolar disorder varies widely between people. For example, some people will only have a couple of bipolar episodes in their lifetime and will be stable in between, while others will have many episodes.
There are several options for treating bipolar disorder, All aim to control the effects of an episode and help someone with bipolar disorder live life as normally as possible.
- medication to prevent episodes of mania, hypo-mania and depression (mood stabilisers and are generally taken every day on a long-term basis)
- medication to treat the main symptoms of deep depression and mania when they occur
- learning to recognise the triggers and signs of an episode of depression or mania
- psychological treatment such as talk therapy, which can aid dealing with depression, and provides advice about how to improve interpersonal relationships
- lifestyle advice – advice on regular exercise, planning activities that impact a sense of achievement, as well as good diet and adequate sleep
It’s thought using a combination of different treatment methods is the best way to manage bipolar disorder. Support for people with a long-term condition, as well as their carers, would normally include self-help and self-management advice, and learning to deal with the practical aspects of the condition.
Read more about Bipolar Disorder.
How does bipolar disorder develop?