Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that, if left untreated, can cause the patient to lose jobs, family, and self. Many times the individual does not realize there is anything wrong. They believe everyone is sometimes happy and sometimes sad. This is true, but in a bipolar person, the moods are extreme, and the pendulum can swing back and forth for no apparent reason. Their response to any situation can be inappropriate and extreme.
Suicide is a problem for many bipolar patients when they come down from a “happy” high into the pits of depression and hopelessness. Another problem is that they tend to be non-compliant with their medications. Though Bipolar disorder is usually a life-long illness, patients frequently stop taking their medications when they “feel better”.
The highs and lows of Bipolar disorder may last for hours, days, or months. It is sometimes confused with schizophrenia, making it more difficult to diagnose.
Symptoms of a Manic Phase
- Extreme mood changes: feelings of extreme euphoria, outgoing, inappropriately happy, irritable, agitated, nervous
- Behavior Changes (usually sudden): short attention span, complaints of thoughts racing, restlessness, sleeping disorders, believing that they have super powers or other unrealistic expectations, impulsive spending or sexual encounters
- Mood change: Long episodes of anxiety, feeling worried, empty, tired, no interest in normal daily activities
- Behavior changes: poor concentration, memory loss, trouble making even simple decisions, irritable, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, thoughts of suicide
Symptoms of a Depressive Phase
The most dangerous time for a suicide attempt is when the patient is on their way into or out of a depressive episode. When the patient is in the despair of total depression, she/he is too tired to plan or even contemplate the energy it would require to carry out the deed. When the patient is at the pinnacle of the happy “high”, they feel that everything is right with the world. It’s that in-between time that they are most prone to planning and implementing suicide.
This fact makes it very hard for the patient’s family and friends to realize the danger. Just when they think the patient is better is usually when disaster strikes.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
Scientists are not certain what caused this disorder. The prevalent belief is that a combination of factors is responsible. It does seem to have some genetic basis, as it can be linked through family members at a higher rate than the general population.
Patients go through psychotherapy and take medications that stabilize moods. Most of the medications are also anticonvulsants. The other drug used with a good success rate is Lithium. Patients must take these medications as prescribed, even when they are feeling fine to keep their mood stable and stop the extreme behaviors.
With proper medications and psychotherapies, those with Bipolar disorder can live a normal, healthy life.