LEVIN FAMILY HEALTH - Open 1st August 2023


Gary says... Living with Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depressive Disorder) can be extremely challenging.

Gary saysMental health disorders can be wide and varied – here the focus surrounds those affected by Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depressive Disorder).

Bipolar Disorder is a mental health state that has wide consequences not only on the individual but also affecting those surrounding the person in question. Fully understanding what an individual is going through can sometimes make the journey less stressful for all.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2019, an estimated 970 million people around the world were living with a mental disorder, with anxiety and depressive disorders being the most common. An estimated 40 million people worldwide were living with bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder experience alternating episodes of depression and mania. During a depressive episode, they may feel sad, irritable, or empty for most of the day, nearly every day. They may also lose interest or pleasure in activities they previously enjoyed. During a manic episode, they may experience euphoria, increased energy, and other symptoms such as racing thoughts, increased self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, distractibility, and impulsive or reckless behavior.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health globally, with a significant increase in the number of people experiencing anxiety and depressive disorders. The pandemic has resulted in increased levels of stress, fear, and uncertainty, as well as social isolation and economic insecurity, all of which can negatively impact mental health. Initial estimates have shown a 26% increase in anxiety disorders and a 28% increase in major depressive disorders in just one year due to the pandemic.

Despite the existence of effective prevention and treatment options, many people with mental disorders still lack access to quality care. Stigma, discrimination, and violations of human rights are also major barriers to mental health care. This highlights the need for increased awareness and investment in mental health care globally to ensure that everyone has access to the care and support they need.

People with bipolar disorder are at an increased risk of suicide, and it's important to seek help if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder. Effective treatment options for bipolar disorder include psychoeducation, stress reduction, and strengthening of social functioning, as well as medication such as mood stabilizers and antipsychotics. With proper treatment, many people with bipolar disorder are able to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is characterized by extreme mood swings, which can include episodes of mania or hypomania (periods of elevated or irritable mood, increased energy, reduced need for sleep, racing thoughts, and impulsive behavior) and episodes of depression (periods of low mood, sadness, fatigue, and loss of interest or pleasure in activities). These mood swings can be severe and last for several weeks or even months and can significantly impact an individual's ability to function in their daily life.

The exact causes of bipolar disorder are not fully understood, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors. Structural and functional changes in the brain, including changes in the levels of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain), may also contribute to the development of bipolar disorder.

The onset of bipolar disorder typically occurs in adolescence or young adulthood, although it can also occur later in life. The diagnosis of bipolar disorder is based on several factors, including a detailed psychiatric evaluation, a thorough medical history, and an assessment of the individual's symptoms and their impact on their daily life. There are several different types of bipolar disorder, each with their own specific diagnostic criteria. Treatment for bipolar disorder usually involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes.

Not everyone with bipolar disorder experiences major depressive episodes, and the severity of the symptoms can vary depending on the type of bipolar disorder a person has. Some people may experience only a few symptoms of depression, while others may have a full-blown major depressive episode.

It's also true that for some people with bipolar disorder, the euphoria of mania or hypomania can feel enjoyable. However, it's important to note that these elevated moods can also lead to impulsive behavior and poor decision-making, which can have negative consequences.

Treatment for bipolar disorder typically focuses on stabilizing mood and preventing episodes of mania or depression. This can involve a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. With effective treatment, people with bipolar disorder can achieve symptom-free periods where their mood and emotions feel stable and balanced.

As you mentioned, one major difference between bipolar disorder and depression is that with bipolar disorder, an individual can experience both "up" and "down" mood states, while with depression, the mood and emotions typically remain "down" until treatment is received. It's important to seek professional help if you're experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder or depression, as these are serious mental health conditions that can have a significant impact on your life if left untreated.

While bipolar disorder affects both men and women, research has suggested that the symptom presentation and course of the disorder may vary depending on gender. Women with bipolar disorder tend to be diagnosed later in life than men, often in their 20s or 30s, and are more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar II than bipolar I.

Bipolar I symptoms

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), a diagnosis of bipolar I disorder requires the following:

·        at least one episode of mania that lasts at least 1 week

·        symptoms that affect daily function

·        symptoms that don’t relate to another medical or mental health condition or substance use

Bipolar II symptoms

A diagnosis of bipolar II requires:

·        at least one episode of hypomania that lasts 4 days or longer and involves 3 or more symptoms of hypomania

·        hypomania-related changes in mood and usual function that others can notice, though these may not necessarily affect your daily life

·        at least one episode of major depression that lasts 2 weeks or longer

·        at least one episode of major depression involving five or more key depression symptoms that have a significant impact on your day-to-day life

·        symptoms that don’t relate to another medical or mental health condition or substance use

Bipolar II symptoms

Can also involve symptoms of psychosis, but only during an episode of depression. You could also experience mixed mood episodes, which means you’ll have symptoms of depression and hypomania simultaneously.

Females vs Males

In general, females with bipolar disorder tend to experience more depressive episodes than manic episodes and may have milder episodes of mania. They also may experience rapid cycling, where they have four or more episodes of mania and depression in a year and are more likely to have co-occurring mental health conditions.

Females with bipolar disorder may also be more prone to relapse, which can be triggered by hormonal changes related to menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. In contrast, males with bipolar disorder may experience less frequent but more severe episodes, especially manic episodes. They are also more likely to have a substance use disorder and show more aggression during episodes of mania.

It's important to note that these are general trends and not necessarily true for every individual with bipolar disorder. Each person's experience of the disorder is unique and can be influenced by many factors, including genetics, environment, and personal history. It's essential to work with a healthcare professional to receive an accurate diagnosis and individualized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and experiences.

Living with Bipolar disorder

Means in addition to medication and talk therapy, there are also lifestyle changes that can help manage bipolar disorder. These include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and regular exercise. Avoiding alcohol and drugs is also important, as they can trigger mood episodes or interfere with medication. It’s also important to have a plan in place for when mood episodes occur. This might involve identifying triggers and early warning signs, and developing strategies for managing symptoms when they arise. It’s important to remember that bipolar disorder is a chronic condition, and there is no cure. However, with the right treatment and support, people with bipolar disorder can live healthy and fulfilling lives.