What is bipolar disorder, how is it treated?

Bipolar disorder which is also called manic depressive disorder is an illness of the brain which causes changes and deterioration in areas like the person’s mood, energy level, activity level, and ability to carry out daily tasks.

In bipolar disorder the symptoms tend to be serious and chronic. Bipolar disorder is markedly different from the mild despondency or alternatively the state of joy that everyone experiences from time to time. Bipolar disorder destroys the person’s relationship with others and leads to a deterioration in areas related to their profession or education. Bipolar disorder is a psychological disorder that can lead to suicide.

The main symptoms of bipolar disorder are episodes with an unusually high level of significant mood changes. During these episodes the person’s mood (how he feels and how he appears to other people) is significantly altered when compared to his normal nature.

During periods called manic episodes in which the person is highly excitable and energetic, the mood is either one of anger or of excessive joyfulness. The person can be excessively active and talkative, his level of self-confidence may be significantly raised and he may spent money lavishly or do things without consideration.

During the sorrowful and joyless periods which are called depressive episodes, the person does not enjoy life, is subdued and passive, often experiences problems with sleep and appetite, loses self-confidence, tends to blame himself and carries thoughts of suicide. Patients with bipolar disorder go through both the manic and the depressive episodes during certain stages in their lives. Outside these periods they return to their normal nature.

Treatment of bipolar disorder is planned on the basis of the severity and particulars of the depressive or manic episode the patient is going through, whether thoughts or attempts of suicide are present, and on how successful previous treatment attempts were.

During severe episodes of the illness it may be necessary to hospitalize the patient in order to achieve a speedy recovery and to control suicide attempts or risky behaviour. Alongside of mood regulating drugs, drugs known as antidepressants and antipsychotics can also be used in the treatment of bipolar disorder. ECT can be applied (electroconvulsive therapy) if necessary.