In a bipolar disorder, the person experiences alternating periods of depression and elevated mood. About 1% of the population is affected by bipolar disorder, and in 90% of the cases, the first symptoms appear between the ages of 15 and 35. The susceptibility of developing bipolar disorder is strongly hereditary.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder
In bipolar disorder, the person alternates between periods of depression, mania and hypomania. The durations of the periods often vary. The manic episode usually lasts at least a week, while the periods of depression are longer. Between the episodes, the person can be completely healthy or only suffer mild symptoms.
In a manic episode, the person’s mood, activity and confidence are abnormally elevated. A manic episode also often involves irritability. The person’s need for sleep and ability to focus are reduced and they are prone to taking risks unreservedly. The symptoms of hypomania are similar to those of mania but are significantly milder.
There are two types of bipolar disorder. If the person’s mood is clearly manic during at least one episode, they suffer from bipolar I disorder. If the episode is hypomanic, in other words mildly manic, the person suffers from bipolar II disorder. A mixed episode refers to a state where symptoms of both depression and mania occur during the same episode.
Diagnosing bipolar disorder
Identifying and diagnosing bipolar disorder often requires long-term monitoring that may even last several years. Testing various types of pharmaceutical treatment starts early in the process.
The person’s positive attitude towards the treatment and their willingness to accept the possible diagnosis play a key role in planning and continuing the treatment.
For many, simply the suspicion of bipolar disorder may come as a relief as it often offers an explanation for difficult stages in their lives, uncontrollable behaviour and susceptibility to depression. Diagnosing the treatment and providing appropriate treatment offer the chance for a better quality of life and a good everyday life.
Treating bipolar disorder
Even though relapses are common in bipolar disorder, the right kind of treatment and an appropriate lifestyle can reduce or even prevent recurring episodes. The disorder can stay asymptomatic for several years. Most of the people affected by bipolar disorder can lead a normal, full life after the appropriate treatment has begun.
Second-generation antipsychotics or mood stabilisers are used in the pharmaceutical treatment of bipolar disorder. Antidepressants can also be used to treat depressive episodes, but they are usually used together with mood stabilisers or antipsychotics to prevent them from promoting the onset of a manic episode.
Psychotherapy offers help for living with the disorder and learning to control it.