Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time.
Criteria and Subtypes
Bipolar I disorder
One or more manic episodes. Subcategories specify whether there has been more than one episode, and the type of the most recent episode. A depressive or hypomanic episode is not required for diagnosis, but it frequently occurs.
Bipolar II disorder
No manic episodes, but one or more hypomanic episodes and one or more major depressive episode. However, a bipolar II diagnosis is not a guarantee that they will not eventually suffer from such an episode in the future Hypomanic episodes do not go to the full extremes of mania (i.e., do not usually cause severe social or occupational impairment, and are without psychosis), and this can make bipolar II more difficult to diagnose, since the hypomanic episodes may simply appear as a period of successful high productivity and is reported less frequently than a distressing, crippling depression.
A history of hypomanic episodes with periods of depression that do not meet criteria for major depressive episodes. There is a low-grade cycling of mood which appears to the observer as a personality trait, and interferes with functioning.
Bipolar Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified)
This is a catchall category, diagnosed when the disorder does not fall within a specific subtype. Bipolar NOS can still significantly impair and adversely affect the quality of life of the patient.
Sign & Symtoms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a condition in which people experience abnormally elevated (manic or hypomanic) and, in many cases, abnormally depressed states for periods of time in a way that interferes with functioning.
Signs and symptoms of the depressive phase of bipolar disorder include persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt, anger, isolation, or hopelessness; disturbances in sleep and appetite; fatigue and loss of interest in usually enjoyable activities; problems concentrating; loneliness, self-loathing, apathy or indifference; depersonalization; loss of interest in sexual activity; shyness or social anxiety; irritability, chronic pain (with or without a known cause); lack of motivation; and morbid suicidal ideation In severe cases, the individual may become psychotic, a condition also known as severe bipolar depression with psychotic features. These symptoms include delusions or, less commonly, hallucinations, usually unpleasant.
Mania is the signature characteristic of bipolar disorder and, depending on its severity, is how the disorder is classified. Mania is generally characterized by a distinct period of an elevated mood, which can take the form of euphoria. People commonly experience an increase in energy and a decreased need for sleep, with many often getting as little as 3 or 4 hours of sleep per night, while others can go days without sleeping. A person may exhibit pressured speech, with thoughts experienced as racing. Attention span is low, and a person in a manic state may be easily distracted. Judgment may become impaired, and sufferers may go on spending sprees or engage in behavior that is quite abnormal for them. They may indulge in substance abuse, particularly alcohol or other depressants, cocaine or other stimulants, or sleeping pills. Their behavior may become aggressive, intolerant, or intrusive. People may feel out of control or unstoppable, or as if they have been "chosen" and are "on a special mission" or have other grandiose or delusional ideas. Sexual drive may increase. At more extreme phases of bipolar I, a person in a manic state can begin to experience psychosis, or a break with reality, where thinking is affected along with mood. Some people in a manic state experience severe anxiety and are very irritable (to the point of rage), while others are euphoric and grandiose.
Hypomania is generally a mild to moderate level of mania, characterized by optimism, pressure of speech and activity, and decreased need for sleep. Generally, hypomania does not inhibit functioning like mania. Many people with hypomania are actually in fact more productive than usual, while manic individuals have difficulty completing tasks due to a shortened attention span. Some people have increased creativity while others demonstrate poor judgment and irritability. Many people experience signature hypersexuality. These persons generally have increased energy and tend to become more active than usual. They do not, however, have delusions or hallucinations.
Hypomania may feel good to the person who experiences it. Thus, even when family and friends learn to recognize the mood swings, the individual often will deny that anything is wrong. Also, the individual may not be able to recall the events that took place while they were experiencing hypomania. What might be called a "hypomanic event", if not accompanied by complementary depressive episodes ("downs", etc.), is not typically deemed as problematic: The "problem" arises when mood changes are uncontrollable and, more importantly, volatile or "mercurial
Mixed Affective Episode
In the context of bipolar disorder, a mixed state is a condition during which symptoms of mania and clinical depression occur simultaneously. Typical examples include tearfulness during a manic episode or racing thoughts during a depressive episode. Individuals may also feel incredibly frustrated in this state, since one may feel like a failure and at the same time have a flight of ideas. Mixed states are often the most dangerous period of mood disorders, during which substance abuse, panic disorder, suicide attempts, and other complications increase greatly.
Cause of Bipolar Disorder
Genetic studies have suggested many chromosomal regions and candidate genes appearing to relate to the development of bipolar disorder, but the results are not consistent and often not replicated. Advanced paternal age has been linked to a somewhat increased chance of bipolar disorder in offspring, consistent with a hypothesis of increased new genetic mutations.
Abnormalities in the structure and/or function of certain brain circuits could underlie bipolar. A general reduction of brain volume and anatomically specific differences in areas such as the prefrontal cortex and the globus pallidus are most commonly found.
Evidence suggests that environmental factors play a significant role in the development and course of bipolar disorder, and that individual psychosocial variables may interact with genetic dispositions.