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Identifying and Managing Bipolar Disorder

Mental Health > Identifying and Managing Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric illness in which moods of extreme happiness (mania) alternate with those of sadness (depression). Approximately 2.4 million people in USA suffer from this disorder. It usually starts in late adolescence. An imbalance in the brain's neurotransmitter 'norepinephrine' results in bipolar disorder. Triggers for the disease include emotional stress, cocaine or winter season.

During the manic phase of bipolar disorder, a person has unrealistic plans, talks very quickly, needs less sleep and food, an enhanced sexual desire, drives wildly, and has inflated self-esteem. While in the depressive phase the person has crying spells, a change in sleep pattern and appetite, and do not care to bathe or even get out of his bed. They withdraw from friends and have feelings of worthlessness.

Any detailed blood tests or x-rays cannot specifically diagnose bipolar disorder. The diagnosis is made based on the signs and symptoms. The person may have a long history of feeling depressed and then at last have a first manic episode. A complete physical examination and a detailed interview with the support of certain tests are required to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of bipolar disorder focuses on medications to steady mood swings and counseling with a therapist. Nevertheless, therapy is more successful with strong support from patient’s family and friends. Mood stabilizers include the age-old lithium, carbamazepine, valproic acid, lamotrigine, olanzapine and risperidone. All these medicines have side effects and require close monitoring.

People with bipolar disorder may be tempted to stop their medicines. This only causes the symptoms to come back, or cause alarming withdrawal symptoms. Follow-up entails regular blood tests, counseling sessions and ongoing education for the patient and his family. With early diagnosis and proper treatment, it is possible to cure bipolar disorder.

Mental Health > Identifying and Managing Bipolar Disorder