What is Bipolar?

What is Bipolar?
Arturo C. Taca, Jr. MD

Bipolar disorder has been one of the most challenging and frustrating psychiatric illnesses to diagnose and treat. Because of its different forms it may express itself, Bipolar can be mis-diagnosed as “regular” depression, anxiety, insomnia, personality disorder, and may also be the main factor why many persons struggling with BiPolar has substance abuse issues.

According to research, up to 60% of people with Bipolar will have issues with Substance Use Disorders (SUD). Diagnosing bipolar is essential to having a successful rehab experience. This is paramount because some medications that treat “regular” or major depression can actually promote mood destabilization. The group of medications called “Anti-Depressants” are not indicated to treat Bipolar Disorder alone and treatment guidelines remind us to use caution when using them along with “Mood Stabilizers”.

The concern is that if a BiPolar with substance abuse issues complain of depression (which a majority do), an anti-depressant may be prescribed alone. This may cause mania (increased energy with euphoria), depression, insomnia, more anxiety. This in return may cause more self-medication and make rehab treatment difficult and unsuccessful. This cycling type of mood in itself is associated with poor outcome.

Below are some facts about Bipolar coming from the National Institute of Mental Health.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a serious brain illness. It is also called manic-depressive illness. People with bipolar disorder go through unusual mood changes. Sometimes they feel very happy and “up,” and are much more active than usual. This is called mania. And sometimes people with bipolar disorder feel very sad and “down,” and are much less active. This is called depression. Bipolar disorder can also cause changes in energy and behavior. Bipolar disorder is not the same as the normal ups and downs everyone goes through. Bipolar symptoms are more powerful than that. They can damage relationships and make it hard to go to school or keep a job. They can also be

dangerous. Some people with bipolar disorder try to hurt themselves or attempt suicide.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

Bipolar mood changes are called “mood episodes.” People may have manic episodes, depressive episodes, or “mixed” episodes. A mixed episode has both manic and depressive symptoms. These mood episodes cause symptoms that last a week or two-sometimes longer. During an episode, the symptoms last every day for most of the day.

Mood episodes are intense. The feelings are strong and happen along with extreme changes in behavior and energy levels.

People having a manic episode may:

• Feel very “up” or “high”

• Feel “jumpy” or “wired”

• Talk really fast about a lot of different things

• Be agitated, irritable, or “touchy”

• Have trouble relaxing or sleeping

• Think they can do a lot of things at once and are more active than usual

• Do risky things, like spend a lot of money or have reckless sex.

People having a depressive episode may:

• Feel very “down” or sad

• Feel worried and empty

• Have trouble concentrating

• Forget things a lot

• Lose interest in fun activities and become less active

• Feel tired or “slowed down”

• Have trouble sleeping

• Think about death or suicide.

What causes bipolar disorder?
Several factors may contribute to bipolar disorder, including:

Genes, because the illness runs in families.

Abnormal brain structure and brain function.

The causes of bipolar disorder aren’t always clear. Scientists are finding out more about the disorder by studying it.

This research may help doctors predict whether a person will get bipolar disorder. One day, it may also help doctors prevent the illness in some people.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health.