Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is characterized by atypical mood swings, changes of energy and ability to function. It is also called manic depression. Unlike average mood swings with their difficulties that are inherent to everyone, the symptoms of bipolar disorder can lead to very serious consequences. Every year about 5.7 million American adults or 2.6% of the population aged 18 years and older are diagnosed with bipolar disorder (Miklowitz & Gitlin, 2014). Bipolar disorder usually manifests itself in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, in some cases, the first symptoms appear in childhood, and sometimes they are detected only in later stages of life. It is vital to understand how to make a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and provide proper treatment for the illness.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Manic depression violates the normal course of sentiment and thought, thus provoking the inappropriate behavior, undermines the foundations of rational thought, and quite often destroys a desire and will to live. This disease is organic in nature, but in practice, it is a psychological disorder. It can destroy personal relations, affect the quality of work or school performance, and even lead to a suicide. It is unique for its ability to enthrall and brings pleasure, but it causes untold suffering and often leads to suicide.
Bipolar disorder is a cause of sudden mood swings: from extreme excitement and/ or irritability to misery and hopeless helplessness, a person returns to the original state and often with periods of normal mood in between. Such alternation of mood is often accompanied by significant changes in energy and behavior. Periods of the excited and passive state are called “episodes of mania and depression” (Bressert, 2007).
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Bipolar disorder is not always associated with mental illness; its root causes may lie in substance abuse, poor academic success, failure at work, or strained personal relationships. All these problems may be symptoms of disturbed mood latent disease. Quite often, bipolar disorder is not amenable to diagnosis, and people have to suffer from it for years and start treatment before the doctor establishes a correct diagnosis. Just as diabetes or heart disease, bipolar disorder is a chronic disease which must be brought under strict control throughout life.
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder
All individuals with the diagnosis experience attacks of mania and depression throughout life. Between the attacks, symptoms are not visible in most patients suffering from bipolar disorder. However, approximately one-third of the patients present with residual symptoms. A small proportion of patients experience chronic continuous symptoms of bipolar disorder despite treatment (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2014).
The most widespread form of the disease, in which episodes of mania and depression repeat regularly, is called the bipolar disorder of the I type. For other patients, there is no severe form of the disorder. Mania and hypomania episodes present light alternating with depression. This type of bipolar disorder has the name of bipolar disorder of the II type. If a patient has four or more episodes within twelve months, then he or she is diagnosed with a rapidly circulating bipolar disorder. In some cases, attacks can occur several times within one week or one day. Quickly swirling bipolar disorder usually develops in the late stage of the disease. Notably, it is much more common among women than among men (National Institute of Mental Health, 2014).
In case of an effective treatment, patients with bipolar disorder can have no problems in their everyday activities. By contrast, the natural course of the disease tends to deteriorate without treatment. Over time, episodes of mania and depression become more frequent (accelerated circulation) and heavier than in the early stages of the disease. However, in most cases, proper treatment can reduce the frequency of episodes along with their power. It can help patients with bipolar disorder to lead a full and happy life.
Bipolar disorder tends to recur in families, so scientists are trying to find specific genes transmitted from generation to generation that may increase susceptibility to disease. However, the matter is not only in genes. Study of monozygotic twins with the identical genetic makeup suggested that factors other than genes have an impact on the bipolar disorder. If the cause of bipolar disorder was only in the genetic code, both of twins would have the illness. However, the research shows the opposite. Nevertheless, if one twin suffers from bipolar disorder, the probability of the disease in the other twin is much higher (National Institute of Mental Health, 2014).
Effective treatment can stabilize mood swings and other symptoms of the disease among patients suffering from bipolar disorder. While bipolar disorder occurs with relapses, the preventive measures of treatment are strongly recommended. Treatment combining medication and therapy is optimum to keep the disease under control.
Only certified psychiatrist doctors of medicine (MD) can prescribe medication to a patient with bipolar disorder. Doctors usually prescribe mood stabilizers. They are of several types. Bipolar disorder is most commonly treated with mood stabilizers. They help stabilize mood swings and cure of mania to depression. Lithium salts is the first type of drugs that is chosen for the treatment of bipolar disorder. Sometimes mood stabilizers must be taken for life to prevent manic episodes. Another type of medication is anticonvulsants. These drugs prevent mood changes, especially in patients with bipolar disorder. Anticonvulsants (valproate, lamotrigine) are also used for mood regulation. Some antipsychotics such as olanzapine and risperidone may be useful in cases when other medication failed to help. Sedative drugs such as benzodiazepines can improve patient’s sleep (Miklowitz & Gitlin, 2014).
Along with medication, the use of psychosocial methods, including certain forms of psychotherapy (or talking therapy), is required. Such techniques help patients with bipolar disorder and their families to understand the specifics of the disease and get the necessary information. The research results showed that psychosocial therapy helps to stabilize mood, reduce the number of hospitalizations, and improve livelihoods in different spheres of human activity. Usually, this treatment involves a licensed psychologist and social service staff in coordination with an attending psychiatrist. The number of sessions, their frequency and duration depend on the individual needs of a patient (Miklowitz & Gitlin, 2014).
Psychosocial methods used in treating bipolar disorders include cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, interpersonal and social therapy, and other types of methods that specialists use to cure the disease.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps patients with bipolar disorder to understand and change the negative or distorted thinking and behavior patterns associated with the disease. This is the most used type of psychotherapy in bipolar disorder. The main goal of this kind of therapy is to segregate maladaptive behavior, which is leading to aggravation of the problem instead of solving it. In addition, it teaches patients to have a more positive perception of reality. The doctor teaches effective behavior patterns, which allows patients to overcome stressful situations with the least damage to the health and emotional balance (Miklowitz & Gitlin, 2014).
Psychological education is another type of cure, which familiarizes patients with information about the disease and its treatment. In addition, it helps to learn how to recognize the signs of relapse. Mental enlightenment is also useful for family members of the patient (Miklowitz & Gitlin, 2014).
Family therapy uses a strategy of lowering the level of tension in the family. It is more expensive and less common type of psychotherapy. A doctor holds a session with the patient and his family members to identify and minimize stressful situations in the family’s everyday life. In the process of family therapy, relatives are trained to achieve a peaceful resolution to conflicts. This kind of treatment can aggravate or produce symptoms of the disease (Miklowitz & Gitlin, 2014).
Interpersonal and social therapy helps patients with bipolar disorder to improve interpersonal relationships and organize their schedule. This therapy allows patients to communicate with other patients suffering from bipolar disorder and share experiences in dealing with the disease. Regular schedule and order in sleep timetable help to prevent manic episodes (Miklowitz & Gitlin, 2014). Psychological therapy together with medication can help the patient to fight the disorder but only if the rules are obeyed (Miklowitz & Gitlin, 2014).
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There are also alternative ways to cure bipolar order. One of them is mindfulness meditation. Studies have shown that the concentration based on cognitive therapy and meditation help to fight and prevent depression together with anger, anxiety, and worry. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and focusing on inner consciousness help break down negative stereotypes of thinking (Miklowitz, 2010).
The other alternative way is acupuncture. Acupuncture is a conventional treatment for bipolar disorder. Some researchers believe that it can help people suffering from this illness to modulate their response to stress. Studies of acupuncture in the treatment of bipolar depression have shown a reduction of symptoms. Every year there is growing evidence that acupuncture can alleviate the symptoms of both depression and mania (Miklowitz, 2010).
Correct treatment can stabilize mood swings and other symptoms of bipolar disorder for most patients suffering from the disease. Bipolar disorder occurs with relapses, so the preventive measures of treatment are strongly recommended. Treatment combining medication and therapy is the optimal way to keep the disease under control.
The process of recovery from bipolar disorder is long, and it will not happen at once. Similarly to mood swings of bipolar disorder, treatment will also have its vicissitudes. A search for the correct treatment will take time. However, with close attention to the disease as well as firm adherence to the desire to improve the condition, one can take the symptoms of bipolar disorder under control and live a full life. The illness is not a sign to give the life away; it is an issue to overcome and become stronger.
- Bressert, S. (2007). An introduction to bipolar disorder. Psych Central.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014). Bipolar disorder. Symptoms. Mayo Clinic.
- Miklowitz, D. J. & Gitlin, M. J. (2014). Clinician’s guide to bipolar disorder: Integrating pharmacology and psychotherapy. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
- Miklowitz, D. J. (2010). The bipolar disorder survival guide, second edition: What you and your family need to know. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2014). Bipolar disorder.