The symptoms of manic-depressive illness, or bipolar disorder, differ for each person. The illness is typified by long periods of severe depressive episodes alternating with long periods of extreme elation, known as manic episodes. These episodes often mix with periods of mood stability. Since manic episodes usually follow episodes of depression, the latter tends to be one of the first signs of manic-depressive illness. For this reason, doctors often diagnose and treat depression rather than bipolar disorder in the beginning.
First Symptoms of Depression
Episodes of depression are known to cause deep sadness and feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and guilt. Sleep problems and changes in appetite, from no appetite to an increased appetite, often occur in depressed patients. Fatigue and irritability as well as problems with focus, memory, and concentration are common symptoms of depression. People who are depressed tend to do poorly at work and in school and are frequently absent from both. Finally, people with this illness often have thoughts of suicide and may even attempt suicide.
First Symptoms of Mania
During a manic episode, it is typical to feel extremely elated and often euphoric. You may also become very agitated and irritable, a feeling often referred to as being wired. It is common to have racing thoughts and to switch thoughts rapidly from one idea to another, causing you to become distracted easily. It is also typical of manic-depressive people to feel increasingly goal-oriented and to start big projects. Chronic insomnia accompanies manic-depressive illness. You may have feelings of grandiosity and act impulsively. It is typical for bipolar individuals to partake in high-risk activities, such as impulsive sex and major spending sprees. High-risk behavior has the potential to cause great harm to a manic-depressive person.
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Seasonal Changes in Mood
Other signs of manic depressive disorder include seasonal affective disorder (SAD), rapid cycling, and psychosis. SAD causes your moods to shift with changes in seasons. Summer invokes episodes of mania, and winter elicits episodes of depression for some people. For others, the opposite is true.
Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder
Rapid cycling bipolar disorder signifies rapid shifts in mood. If you experience at least four mood shifts in one year, you are rapid cycling. Some people rapid cycle several times over the course of a day.
Psychosis may result from episodes of depression and mania that are so severe they cause a break with reality. Psychosis is characterized by delusions and hallucinations.
Methods Used to Treat Depression and Mania
Treeatment depends on the individual and whether comorbid, or cooccurring, conditions exist. Medication is prescribed right away, and one or more forms of therapy are employed. In some cases, hospitalization is necessary.
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It’s not unusual for addiction to accompany manic depressive bipolar disorder, and it is important to treat any existing addiction in order to properly treat depression and mania. Whether your addiction stems from bipolar disorder or vice versa, you should consider a treatment plan for substance abuse before you can be sure your diagnosis of bipolar disorder is correct.
Medications Used to Treat Bipolar Disorder
At the first signs of bipolar disorder, a mood stabilizer is prescribed, the most common of which is lithium. If your condition doesn’t improve in four to six weeks, an antidepressant is added to your treatment. Antidepressants are not recommended without a mood stabilizer. Some atypical antipsychotic medications work well for bipolar disorder and may be prescribed to you. Benzodiazepines are necessary if you suffer from anxiety.
Several types of therapy work for manic-depressive illness. Talk therapy, which entails regular sessions discussing your illness and progress with a psychiatrist, is the most common form of therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also very common and usually works in conjunction with talk therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you identify mood shifts and what triggers them. The therapy helps guide you in learning ways to cope with mood swings and deal with events in life that trigger changes in your mood.
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If neither medication nor therapy improves your condition, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is prescribed. During ECT sessions, brief seizures are induced by passing electrical currents through your brain. This works quickly to change your brain chemistry and alleviates symptoms of bipolar disorder. ECT is a very effective method of treatment.
Once acute attacks of depression and mania are under control, it may be possible to maintain wellbeing with the aid of a mood stabilizer alone. However, some people will always require additional medications to maintain good mental health. With all the drugs available for the treatment of manic-depressive illness, it is extremely likely you will find one that works for you. Manic depressive disorder is treatable, so you should see a doctor at the first signs.