Bipolar disorder is a medical condition that involves rapid mood swings between periods of good moods and those of irritability and depression. The condition is experienced equally by both men and women and generally manifests itself for the first time when the individual is between the ages of 15 and 25.
- feeling overly happy or “high” for long periods of time
- having a decreased need for sleep
- talking very fast, often with racing thoughts
- feeling extremely restless or impulsive
- becoming easily distracted
- having overconfidence in your abilities
- engaging in risky behavior, such as having impulsive sex, gambling with life savings, or going on big spending sprees
Diagnosing bipolar disorder requires extensive testing. A physician testing for the disorder will ask about the patient’s family history, looking for anyone else in the family who has the disorder. The physician will also ask about any mood swings experienced recently, and take a history of the mood swings including when they began. After medical questioning, the doctor will provide a thorough physical exam to determine if there is any other illness that may be causing the symptoms of the disorder.
Treatment of bipolar disorder is aimed at stabilizing the patient’s mood as much as possible. With treatment, that the patient may avoid hospital stays, have a lowered desire to self-injure and function better in all of the phases of the condition. During treatment, a physician will try to determine the triggers of the mood swings and provide the patient with exercises to complete when these triggering events occur. These exercises may help prevent the moods or lower their severity. Those patients experiencing severe symptoms may require hospitalization while the mood is stabilized. This may be necessary for either the manic or depressive stages of the disorder.
Those on medication who experience positive results often stop taking the medication, mistaking it for a cure rather than an ongoing stabilizing treatment. Patients may also stop taking medication if they miss the feelings of mania. If the medication is stopped, the symptoms of the disorder often return. Stopping medication may also lead to an even higher chance of drug or alcohol abuse, an increase in suicidal thoughts and extreme judgment issues.