Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is characterized by extreme mood swings. These mood swings can range from periods of highs (mania) to times of lows (depression). If left untreated, these swings can be debilitating and even life-threatening. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are critical in managing the symptoms of the illness and preventing serious complications.
Psychiatry experts agree that early intervention is critical in treating bipolar disorder effectively. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of early diagnosis and treatment and look at different therapeutic approaches.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder (BD) is a mental health condition that changes a person’s mood, energy, and activity levels. It was previously known in the medical community as manic-depressive disorder, but the term is gradually being phased out.
It has two main mood episodes: depression, which involves feeling unusually down or irritable for periods of at least two weeks, and mania, an abnormally elevated mood that lasts for a week or more. These episodes can cause drastic shifts in behavior, from disinterest to overactivity in different areas of life.
Other symptoms associated with the issue may usually include the following:
- Sleep disturbances
- Cognitive issues such as problems with attention and concentration
- Irritability and anger outbursts
- Physical agitation or restlessness
- Racing thoughts and rapid speech
- Poor judgment when it comes to decision-making
- High-risk behaviors such as drug abuse.
If left untreated, this mental issue can have a significant negative impact on a person’s life. Fortunately, there are now treatments to help manage this condition and enable those dealing with it to live fulfilling lives.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
The exact causes of bipolar disorder are still unknown, but it appears to be related to an imbalance in brain chemistry and certain genetic factors. Other potential causes include significant events or changes in a person’s life (such as trauma or the death of a loved one) and environmental triggers, such as exposure to drugs or alcohol. However, it is important to remember that these are not direct causes — they rather may contribute to a person’s susceptibility to developing mental problems.
Psychiatrists still work on defining who is more susceptible to BD and how to prevent the development of this mental illness, but it is still not fully understood.
The Difference Between BD and Cyclothymia
Bipolar disorder and cyclothymia are both mental health conditions, but they differ in the range of mood swings.
BD is characterized by extreme shifts between manic episodes, when a person may feel euphoric and overexcited, to major depressive episodes, where a person experiences immense feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
Cyclothymia is less severe and is defined by relatively mild shifts between depressive and hypomanic episodes. During hypomanic episodes, people have increased energy levels, focus their thoughts more easily, feel more creative, and become prone to impulsive decision-making. Understanding the key distinctions between these two conditions can help individuals struggling with mood swings get accurate diagnoses for their symptoms.
Early Diagnosis Methods
Early diagnosis is integral for effective treatment and can be challenging to achieve due to the complexities of the condition. Thankfully, nowadays, there are various screening tools available that help pinpoint a diagnosis. Here are some of the most common ones:
- The Mood Disorder Questionnaire
- Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM)
- General Behavior Inventory.
Additionally, clinicians should conduct cognitive testing to assess any deficits in a person’s organizational ability or memory, which can be associated with bipolar disorder. Behavioral monitoring over an extended period of time is also important, as it can aid in determining if one’s current mental state may indicate the early warning signs of the condition. Finally, it is vital that therapies start as soon as possible so that individuals are able to reach their maximum recovery potential.
How to Treat BD – Different Approaches
Bipolar disorder, as we have already mentioned earlier, is a complex mental health problem that is not yet fully understood but can be treated with a variety of methods. Treatment approaches for BD vary depending on each affected individual but may involve medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
Psychotherapeutic approaches usually include those listed below:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT)
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
- Psychoeducation that teaches strategies to reduce depression and other symptoms associated with BD.
Additionally, patients living with bipolar disorder often benefit from lifestyle changes such as stress-reduction techniques, exercise, and maintaining healthy eating habits. Regardless of the treatment approach, long-term monitoring and follow-up with a mental health professional are essential, as responding to early signs of recurrence can help prevent more severe episodes in the future.
Sequelae of Undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is an often overlooked mental health condition, but when left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to severe sequelae.
Untreated bipolar disorder can cause, among other unpleasant things, the following:
- Disruptions within the family dynamic
- Difficulty managing relationships
- Decreased ability to function in society.
Besides, those suffering from the undiagnosed disease may experience such problems as the ones below:
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Depressive conditions
- Difficulties at work or at an educational institution
- Self-medicating behavior that involves drugs or alcohol.
In some cases, living with untreated bipolar disorder can even lead to psychosis. Therefore, it is important for those who believe they are exhibiting BD symptoms to seek professional medical advice as soon as possible in order to hopefully avoid any long-running consequences.
It is clear that bipolar disorder is a severe mood illness, but with proper diagnosis and treatment, a person can restore balance in life. Early diagnosis allows for better treatments, and it will enable those who struggle with BD to seek more specialized assistance and support, which will help them to live with less pain and discomfort.
There are many different therapies available to treat bipolar disorder, from medical approaches like medications to lifestyle adjustments such as diet changes, stress management practices, and physical activities. Yet, unfortunately, many people suffer from undiagnosed BD, which can lead to severe mental health conditions such as depression or substance abuse. Because of these sequelae, it is important to reach out for help sooner than later so that both the quality and length of life of one affected can be improved.
If you think you may have bipolar disorder or know someone who might not be aware that they could be affected by this condition, please contact a rehabilitation center for further evaluation and professional advice.