Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme mood swings. These mood swings, ranging from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression), can have severe effects on a person’s ability to carry out their daily tasks.
While most humans encounter highs and lows in their lives, these are much more profound for the bipolar sufferer. People with bipolar disorder have periods of episodes of deep gloom or manic highs. Both often have debilitating effects on those who are around the sufferer.
Depression – feeling very low and lethargic
Mania – feeling very high and overactive
Symptoms depend on which mood you’re experiencing at any particular time. 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.
During a manic phase of bipolar disorder, you may feel very happy and find that you have lots of energy as well perhaps as ambitious plans and ideas and then you may find yourself spending large amounts of money you can’t afford on things you wouldn’t normally want.
Under or over eating
Sleeping less, talking quickly and becoming annoyed easily are also common characteristics of this phase. However, you may experience symptoms of psychosis where you are out of reality when you see or hear things that aren’t there or you become convinced of thing that aren’t true (paranoia).
Living with bipolar disorder
The high and low phases of this disorder are often so extreme that they interfere with everyday life and affect the people around you in ways that leave them feeling exhausted and wanting to remove themselves from your presence.
Having said all that, you can take considerable comfort from the fact that there are all sorts of options for managing bipolar disorder to enable you to live life as normal as possible.
Medication is usually the basis of treating bipolar disorder. This consists of mood stabiliser drugs which, taken every day for the long term, can be very effective in bringing mood into equilibrium. Although it is important to remember that while medication is important in treating bipolar disorder, it should be seen as part of an overall plan.
Recognising the triggers
Common triggers for bipolar are such things as stressful events – both positive and negative, lack of quality sleep, alcohol abuse, stimulants, eg coffee and disrupted routines. It is very important that sufferers recognise their triggers and take care to avoid them.
It is widely thought that a combination of different treatment methods is best in treating bipolar disorder. There are various therapy approaches which can work well.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helps people focus on positive thoughts to help change moods and set small goals.
Interpersonal Social Rhythm Therapy is about helping people to regulate daily activities and sleep patterns.
Family Focused Therapy incorporates psychoeducation so that family members learn to help solve problems together.
Attention to lifestyle can also help in treating bipolar disorder, with a focus on regular exercise, improving sleep and paying attention to regular exercise.
If this issue affects you or any member of your family, please get in touch – I would be glad to help.