What is Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, also called depressive-maniac illness is a type of mental illness that affects an individual’s mood, feelings and energy levels. It is characterized by unusual shifts in a person’s state of mind between a depressive mood and a state of mania. As it is considered a chronically reoccurring illness, an individual diagnosed with this disorder will experience varying onsets and recoveries throughout his or her life (Britannica, 2014).
Signs and Symptoms in Each Mood
The depressive mood is a state of mind where an individual may show signs and symptoms that display a lack of energy and a general feeling of sadness. These signs and symptoms may include:
- Restless behaviour and low energy levels
- The loss of interest in activities once found pleasurable,
- Difficulty experienced when making simple decisions or performing simple actions
- The inability to concentrate on everyday tasks
And in extreme situations, an individual may also start to develop a strong feeling of self-worthlessness to the point where suicidal thoughts and actions begin to manifest.
The maniac mood is a state of mind where an individual may display signs and symptoms of an elevated mood characterized by excitement and hyperactivity. These signs and symptoms may include:
- A general sense of happiness, outgoing and optimistic personality
-The explicit displaying restless behaviour such as being unable to sleep, having rapid speech and being easily distracted
- The inability to sleep due to increased energy levels
- Having an inflated self-esteem and belief in oneself that leads to taking risky and impulsive actions
- Also, in extreme situations the maniac state of mind may also induce hallucinations and delusions that will lead an individual to have a false understanding of something that may result in taking part in dangerous or unhealthy activities.
(National Institute of Mental Health, 2014), (WebMD, 2015)
An individual with bipolar disorder may transition between these two states of minds at varying periods and the frequent alternating of these moods is called rapid cycling.(Britannica, 2014).
Bipolar disorder is also further classified into three main types on the basis of their duration, severity and frequency of onsets
The three main types of Bipolar disorder include Bipolar 1, Bipolar 2 and Cyclothymic disorder (Britannica, 2014).
Bipolar 1 disorder is located on the extreme of the bipolar spectrum as it is the most severe in terms of the duration each specific moods. (Mood disorders association of BC, 2008). It includes at least one maniac and one depressive episode that may last for a week and up to a month in extreme cases. It is also classified as the most severe form of bipolar disorder due to the evident presence of symptoms in the maniac state of mind.
- Bipolar 2: Bipolar two disorder is the second most severe form of bipolar disorder in which an individual primarily experiences the signs and symptoms of the depressive mood with occasional and mild maniac episodes (WebMD, 2015). Due to the prevalence of depression and depression like behaviors, the risk of suicide is relatively higher than other types. (Mood disorders association of BC, 2008)
- Cyclothymic disorder: Cyclothymic disorder is a rare and less severe form of bipolar disorder the episodes for both the maniac and depressive states of mind are relatively shorter and are separated by longer periods of recovery in between the fluctuating onsets of these different moods. (Mood disorders association of BC, 2008)
- Although the exact causes of bipolar disorder have not been discovered yet, there are a variety of factors that increases an individual’s chances of getting this mental illness.
The most recognized factor for why this disease occurs is hereditary as the risk of an individual being affected with this disease increases up to 15-20% if his or her family member has any type of mood disorder such as depression or ADHD. This further increases to about 50-65% if both parents have the disorder (Steve Bressert, 2013). A study conducted by the National institute of mental Health concluded that over two thirds of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder have at least one close relative such as a sibling with unipolar depression or bipolar disorder itself (National institute of Mental Health, 2014). Such a majority highlights the importance of gene inheritance as a possible cause for bipolar disorder.
Biological factors such as dysfunctional neurotransmitters may also play a major role in causing this disorder. As neurotransmitters such as Serotonin which regulates the emotions related to well-being and a feeling of happiness becomes unusually active or dormant at certain times, it can alter the mood of an individual to feel and behave in an overly energized or depressed manner.
(Joseph Goldberg, WebMD 2014)
This unusual anomaly in the brain can also be caused by external or environmental factors such as a shocking life event or tragedy. Also, Factors such as stress or substance abuse may also play a major role in the development of bipolar disorder as it that alters the health habits and the mood of an individual. (Steve Bressert, 2013)
Who it Affects
Bipolar disorder is an illness that has the capacity to affect anyone regardless of age, gender or ethnicity (Steve Bressert, 2013). However various studies from different organizations show that the type of bipolar disorder may be prevalent in one gender than another and the risk factors of being diagnosed with this illness may vary with age.
A study from the Canadian Mental Health Association shows that the average age for displaying the onset of first visible symptoms in Canada is around the early 20’s and the majority of individuals are diagnosed around this age (2013).There have also been cases of individuals being diagnosed as young as 12 and as old as 40 but the risk factor slowly declines each year once the age of 20-25 is reached (Steve Bressert, 2013).
In the case of gender, the majority of individuals diagnosed with type 2 bipolar disorder are women who experience more depressive episodes than men. Bipolar 1 equally affects both men and women but the majority of women experience having a depressive episode as their first onset while men experience a maniac episode. (Depression and Support Alliance, 2010)
Impact on Everyday Life
Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder will heavily impact an individual’s life especially with their ability to forge and maintain relationships with other people. People outside of family or close friends may not be able to cope and understand the volatile mood that comes with bipolar disorder and it may be a challenge for those diagnosed to fulfil their social needs.
Also as bipolar disorder may cause an individual to have false expectations for themselves during their maniac episodes, they may perform risky or impulsive actions that may have legal or social consequences (National Institute of Mental Health, 2014). From the perspective of employment, those diagnosed with bipolar disorder may have difficulty in finding jobs as their impulsive behaviour will make them ineffective workers.
At the same time when going through the depression stage, other problems such as substance abuse, neglect of family and friends and social isolation may aggregate the depressive feelings which may eventually lead to suicide or self-harm. As a result, the life expectancy of someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder is reduced by around 10-12 years from the average life expectancy of 81 years (Psychiatry Advisor, 2015).
How it is treated and community support programs
Although psychiatry and pharmacy is not at a point where a definite cure is available for bipolar disorder, various medications and psycho therapies exist to control and alleviate the effects of this illness (Joseph Goldberg, 2015).
An individual receiving treatment for bipolar disorder would receive psychiatrist prescribed drugs such as mood stabilizers like lithium to prevent mania, antidepressants to prevent depressive behaviour and anti psychotics to prevent delusions and hallucinations. Apart from this patients also receive cognitive, family and interpersonal therapies to help cope with the social effects to this disorder. (Joseph Goldberg, 2015)
Community Support Programs
An example would be the Equilibrium mental health support group for mood and anxiety disorders located in Oakville. This community group aims to provide group therapies and support to those diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders.
- It is run by outreach workers from various clinics such as the Oakville traflagar memorial hospital and the Oakville distress centre while being funded by donations at each meeting
- Meetings are pre scheduled at specific dates and usually start promptly at 7:30 pm on Tuesdays
- In order to receive help, one would have to be simply have to be referred by a psychiatrist before gaining admission and access to group therapies and speakers free of charge
- It also serves people of all ages and places no criteria on an eligible population
Criticism of this support group:
- The main flaw with this organization is its lack of accommodation for disabled people and the use of only English which will eliminate a certain demographic such as disabled people, Franco-phones and immigrants from utilizing the services of the program. Since this program only runs on specific dates and on specific times, it may not serve the needs of all those who need support and may not be a primary option for the majority of those diagnosed around the area. Instead, this program is only a supplementary support option that those diagnosed may choose to attend along with another support group. Also, the fact that the organization only extends its services to those with a referral from a psychiatrist means that it is preventing ordinary benevolent people from gaining a better understanding of bipolar disorder and helping to accept and accommodate those diagnosed into mainstream society.
Bipolar disorder. (2014, December 9). Retrieved December 12, 2015, from http://www.britannica.com/science/bipolar-disorder
What is Bipolar Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtm
Bressert, S. (2014, December 14). The Causes of Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-causes-of-bipolar-disorder-manic-depression/
Goldberg, J. (2013, January 13). Bipolar Disorder Risk Factors: Genetics, Lifestyle, and More. Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/bipolar-disorder-whos-at-risk?page=2
Clinic, M. (2015, February 10). Diseases and Conditions - Bipolar disorder. Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/basics/risk-factors/con-20027544
Depression and Bipolar Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from https://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/facts-about-depression-and-bipolar-disorder/