Most people have emotional ups and downs
from time to time. However, with a brain condition called Bipolar Disorder, one’s
feelings can reach abnormal high or low levels Individuals may feel immensely
excited or energetic. Other times, they may find themselves sinking into a deep
depression. Some of these emotional peaks and lows can last for weeks or months
(Rol, J, 2017). This paper explores the
causes, symptoms and treatments of BD. In the second part of this paper I will
explore my own experience with the disorder. Finally, I will compare my own
experience with the research.
Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness that
causes dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly.
People with Bipolar experience high and low moods known as mania and depression
which differ from the typical ups-and-downs most people experience. The average
age-of-onset is about 25, but it can occur in the teens, or more uncommonly, in
childhood. The condition affects men and women equally, with about 2.6% of the U.S.
population diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and nearly 83% of cases classified
as severe. (NAMI, 2017)
Bipolar Disorder is likely caused by
multiple factors that interact with each other. It often runs in families and
there is a genetic component to the disorder. For example, chances of getting
Bipolar Disorder are higher if one’s parents or siblings have this disorder.
However, even though someone may have inherited the genes for Bipolar Disorder,
there is no guarantee that this person will develop the disorder. A stressful
environment or negative life events may interact with an underlying genetic or
biological vulnerability to produce the disorder. In other words, some people
are born with genes that make it more likely that they will get Bipolar Disorder.
It is not known why some people with these genes develop Bipolar Disorder and
others do not. Often, a stressful event seems to trigger the first episode. Therefore,
an individual’s coping skills or style for handling stress also may play a role
in the development of symptoms. In some cases, drug abuse (e.g., alcohol,
amphetamines, LSD, cocaine, etc.) can trigger the dis-order. Stressful life
events also may lead to a loss of sleep or a change in usual routines. Such
changes in one’s schedule can contribute to the onset and recurrence of
depression and mania. (Otto, M.W 2011).
Like most diseases, Bipolar Disorder comes
in different shapes and sizes and can be difficult to diagnose. Few people or
physicians would miss classic Bipolar Disorder, with its cyclic episodes of
severe depression and full-blown mania. After all, there is nothing subtle
about mania, grandiose and often psychotic thinking, elated mood, superhuman
energy and libido and reckless judgment (NY Times, 2004).
Treatment helps many people—even those
with the most severe forms of Bipolar Disorder gain better control of their mood
swings and other bipolar symptoms. An effective treatment plan usually includes
a combination of medication and psychotherapy (also called “talk therapy”).
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness (NIMH, 2016). Medications generally used to treat Bipolar Disorder
include: Mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, Antidepressants. There are
a lot of different medications that people can take to treat their bipolar
symptoms. The most common type of medication that a person will take is called
a mood stabilizer. Mood stabilizers treat and prevent the highs of a manic or
hypomanic episode, as well as the lows of depressive episodes. When a person
has Bipolar Disorder, it can be difficult to function at work, school or in
social situations. This type of medication helps minimize the negative effects
of bipolar disorder in those situations. Some of these medications include:
Depakene, Tegretol, Lamictal, and Lithobid.
While bipolar disorder cannot be
prevented, it’s important to be aware of early warning signs of an impending
episode of bipolar depression or bipolar mania. Early recognition of bipolar
warning signs and seeing your doctor regularly can allow you to monitor your
mood and medications and keep illness from escalating. In fact, although
treating bipolar disorder moods is critical, there is a convincing case
supported by scientific studies that the prevention of further mood episodes
should be the greatest goal. According to a study conducted at Mount Sinai
Hospital, Our findings suggest that resilience to genetic risk of bipolar
disorder may reflect the capacity to adapt network connectivity to ameliorate
the effects of underlying network dysfunction,” wrote the researchers.
(Dima D. Robert 2016). Someday, this new research suggests, neuroplasticity may
become the basis for new and innovative treatments to help those who suffer
from this often debilitating illness.
Bipolar disorder can be severe and
long-term, or it can be mild with infrequent episodes. Patients with the
disease may experience symptoms in very different ways. A typical patient with
bipolar disorder averages 8 – 10 manic or depressive episodes over a lifetime.
However, some people experience more and others fewer episodes. Patients with
bipolar disorder generally have higher death rates from suicide, heart
problems, and death from all causes than those in the general population.
Patients who get treatment, however, experience great improvement in survival
rates (Umm, 2013).
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