What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by extreme mood swings. Individuals with bipolar experience episodes of mania (increased energy and elevated mood) and depression with a low mood. These shifts in mood can impair a person’s ability to function at work and in their personal life.
What Is Bipolar I and II?
There are two different types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I and bipolar II. These types of bipolar disorder are distinguished by the severity of the shift in mood and behavior, as well as how quickly these episodes come and go.
Is the more severe of the two forms of bipolar disorder and causes intense swings in mood and energy, from highs to lows. With bipolar I, manic episodes are present, but depressive episodes are not always present.
Is the most common form of bipolar disorder and is characterized by less intense manic episodes called hypomanic episodes. To have bipolar II, a person must have experienced at least one major depressive episode as well.
What Is a Manic and Hypomanic Episode?
As indicated, a manic episode is associated with bipolar I, whereas hypomanic episode with bipolar II.
A manic episode:
Involves mood changes such as feeling “high,” elevated mood, and increased energy. During a manic episode, a person feels irritable, agitated, and grandiose. A manic episode involves behavioral changes such as speaking very fast and jumping from one thought to another. Someone experiencing a manic episode may be easily distractable, take on new projects without completing any, or get little to no sleep. They may behave impulsively, such as spending a lot of money or engaging in risky sexual behaviors.
A hypomanic episode:
Consists of similar symptoms as manic episodes, but the symptoms are fewer and less severe compared to a manic episode.
What Is a Depressive Episode?
A depressive episode includes mood changes such as feeling down, empty, or hopeless for two or more weeks and losing interest in activities that once were enjoyable. Depressive episodes also include behavioral changes such as feeling tired or “slowed down,” concentration difficulties, restlessness, irritability, eating or sleeping disruptions, and suicidal thoughts.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder has a genetic component, in that bipolar disorder is more common in those who have a family member with the condition and may involve a chemical imbalance in the brain. Several other risk factors can increase the likelihood of bipolar onset or relapse, such as drug or alcohol use or traumatic life events.
How Does Bipolar Disorder Affect Women?
Bipolar I affects women and men equally, though it is often diagnosed later in life for women. However, bipolar II is diagnosed more frequently in women compared to men, and women are more likely to develop hypomania than men. Women with bipolar II tend to experience depressive episodes more often and may have more rapid cycling between highs and lows.
Women with bipolar disorder are more likely to have co-occurring physical and mental health conditions, such as alcohol use problems, eating disorders, thyroid disease, medication-induced obesity, and migraine headaches.
Hormone changes during the menstrual cycle and menopause can impact the severity of a woman’s bipolar disorder. However, they do not cause bipolar. Studies suggest that women with bipolar disorder may experience more severe symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Additionally, some women with bipolar disorder experience severe emotional disturbances during the transition into menopause. These effects may be mitigated with proper treatment of bipolar disorder.
Pregnant women and those who have recently given birth are at greater risk of being admitted to the hospital for their bipolar disorder and to having a recurrence of symptoms.
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder
There is currently no cure for bipolar disorder, but treatment can help control symptoms of the disorder. Bipolar is typically a lifelong condition that needs to be treated throughout a person’s life.
Treatment for bipolar may consist of medications such as lithium and other mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety medicines, and antidepressants.
Talk therapy is also a proven treatment to manage bipolar disorder by helping individuals recognize signs of episodes and learn coping skills.
In some cases, individuals experiencing a severe manic or depressive episode may need to stay in the hospital temporarily to stabilize their symptoms.
Frequently Ask Questions
Certain medications that treat bipolar disorder are safe to take while breastfeeding. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor about what medications you can take after giving birth.
Women with bipolar disorder are likely to experience a depressive episode after giving birth. Women who experience a depressive or manic episode post-partum are also more likely to have episodes after future pregnancies. Women with bipolar disorder have a higher risk of developing postpartum psychosis.
While it is important for women with bipolar disorder to continue treatment during pregnancy, risks to the baby are also considered. As such, changes to treatment regimens may occur to reduce risk. In general, doctors prefer lithium and drugs such as Haldol, as well as antidepressants, during pregnancy. These drugs have more safety data compared to newer drugs.
Researchers have not found that symptoms of mania, hypomania, and depression are different in women and men.
Symptoms of mania or hypomania include:
- feeling euphoric, jittery, or irritable
- having increased energy
- having elevated self-esteem
- feeling powerful
- experiencing sleep and appetite disruptions
- talking faster and more than usual
- having rapid flights of ideas or racing thoughts
- being easily distractable
- taking excessive risks (e.g., gambling)
Symptoms of depression include:
- feeling sad or “down”
- feeling slowed down and speaking more slowly
- feeling restless
- eating more or less than usual
- losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- feeling hopeless or worthless
- having trouble concentrating
- having problems sleeping
- thinking about death or suicide
The information on this page, or elsewhere on this site, is not intended to take the place of diagnosis, treatment or informed advice from a qualified mental health professional. You should not take or avoid any action without consultation with the latter.
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