Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterised by extreme mood swings that encompass both highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). Mania is more severe than hypomania and can lead to significant challenges in relationships, employment, school, and social activities. It can even trigger a break from reality.
During a major depressive episode, individuals experience symptoms that significantly interfere with their daily functioning in various areas such as work, school, social activities, and relationships.
Mood fluctuations in bipolar disorder can have a negative impact on sleep patterns, energy levels, judgement, activity levels, conduct, and the ability to think clearly. These episodes of mood swings can occur infrequently or multiple times throughout the year.
Unfortunately, many individuals with bipolar disorder may not recognize the need to seek help from a psychiatrist despite the severity of their mood swings. However, instances of suicidal or self-harming thoughts or actions require immediate psychiatric intervention.
People with bipolar disorder are also more likely to have comorbid conditions such as anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorders/dual diagnosis. These additional conditions can further complicate the management and treatment of bipolar disorder.
The precise cause of bipolar disorder is still unknown to scientists. However, they believe that genetic factors play a significant role in its development. Bipolar disorder is considered highly heritable, as more than two-thirds of individuals with the condition have at least one close biological relative who also experiences bipolar disorder. It’s important to note that having a biological relative with bipolar disorder doesn’t guarantee that an individual will develop the condition.
In addition to genetic factors, scientists believe that other elements contribute to the onset of bipolar disorder. These include :
While the exact interplay between genetic, brain-related, and environmental factors in bipolar disorder is not fully understood, ongoing research aims to shed light on these complex relationships.
A manic episode is characterised by a sustained period of at least one week during which an individual displays intense feelings of high spirits or irritability throughout most of the day, accompanied by elevated energy levels and notable changes in behaviour. To be considered a manic episode, the person must experience at least three of the following behavioural changes :
These behavioural changes must be noticeable and different from the person’s usual behaviour, and they are typically evident to friends and family. Symptoms of a manic episode are severe enough to interfere with daily functioning in various areas, including work, family life, social activities, and responsibilities. In some cases, hospital care may be necessary to ensure the person’s safety.
It’s important to note that some individuals experiencing manic episodes may also have disorganised thinking, hold false beliefs, or experience hallucinations. These additional symptoms are referred to as psychotic features.
A hypomanic episode is characterised by mild manic symptoms that persist for at least four consecutive days, as opposed to the one-week duration required for a full manic episode. Unlike manic symptoms, hypomanic symptoms do not typically result in significant impairments in daily functioning.
During a hypomanic episode, individuals may experience the following symptoms :
It’s important to note that although a hypomanic episode may not cause significant functional impairments, it can still have a disruptive impact on a person’s life, relationships, and overall well-being. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a hypomanic episode, it is advisable to seek professional evaluation and support.
During a major depressive episode, individuals experience a prolonged period of at least two weeks characterised by the presence of at least five symptoms, including at least one of the first two symptoms listed below :
These symptoms collectively contribute to a significant decrease in the person’s overall well-being and ability to function normally in daily life. It’s important to note that a diagnosis of a major depressive episode requires the presence of these symptoms for a minimum duration of two weeks. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it is crucial to seek professional help and support.