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Bipolar disorder, also known as bipolar disease and bipolar affective disorder, manic depression is a form of chronic depression that is characterized by changes in mood that occur episodically. Generally those suffering from bipolar disorder suffer from manic episodes of extreme energy and an inability to focus to moments of extreme depression and melancholy. Although there is no set Bipolar Test that can identify manic depression or bipolar disorder, the symptoms of this disorder are often observed when patients are in their teenage years. There are many potential contributing factors to this disorder, though as of yet it has not been determined if there is a single determining factor or whether or not it is in fact a complex interaction between experiential, social, psychological, environmental and even genetic factors that may result in bipolar disorder. However, there are a number of ongoing research projects by a variety of agencies into potential treatment avenues and the effectiveness of a wide range of treatment options that although they may not immediately be able to cure bipolar disorder can, at the very least, ensure that the patient and the patient’s family are able to lead happy and productive lives through the maintenance and control of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
Bipolar Symptoms are many and given that bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings between manic and depressive episodes (known as Bipolar Depression), it is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of both modes in this disorder. According to the National Institutes of Health, an episode is identified by three or more of the following symptoms for much of the day each day for a period of at least one week. These symptoms include: increased energy, excessively good mood, extreme irritability, racing thoughts and conclusions, distractibility, little sleep required, unrealistic beliefs of one’s abilities and powers, poor judgment, spending sprees, a lasting unusual period of behavior, increased sex drive, abuse of drugs (which may lead to a bipolar and addiction dual diagnosis), aggressive behavior, a state of denial. In contrast, the National Institutes of Health identifies a depressive episode as five or more of the following symptoms each day for at least two weeks. These symptoms include a lasting sad, anxious or empty mood, feelings of hopelessness, feelings of guilt or helplessness, loss of interests and interests in activities, lack of energy, inability to concentrate or make decisions, restlessness, sleeping too much or insomnia, changes in appetite or body weight.
This disorder is generally treated with counseling and some form of mood stabilizers, such as lithium or valproate that work to even out the manic and depressive phases. These are often used in conjunction with antidepressants as a means of normalizing the shift in moods, eliminating switches between extreme mania and extreme depression. The general methodology is that since manic depression cannot be cured as such the best attempts at controlling the disorder are to medicate against the symptoms and couple this pharmacological regimen with counseling of some form that is amenable to the patient.
According to the National Institutes of Health, some atypical antipsychotic medications are currently being researched as potentially being used in the treatment of bipolar disorder, including: clozapine (Clorazil), olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel) and ziprasidone (Geodon).
As one is being treated for bipolar disorder there may over the course of time be the need to update the treatment and medication options. However, a trained health professional such as a psychiatrist should always be consulted before making any changes to any medical regimen being used in the treatment of bipolar disorder. It is also extremely important that patients are compliant with their pharmacological regimen in order to ensure that the medications are being correctly administered in order to ensure that they have a maximum efficacy.
In combination with medical treatments there are also forms of counseling or psychiatry known as psychosocial treatments. This is generally part of a counseling experience that may involve either the individual or a combination of consultations with the individual and the individual’s family with a licensed practitioner. Generally the benefits of these treatments, according to the NIH is that they result in improving the general condition of the patient by allowing for a regular monitoring of symptoms of bipolar disorder in relation to the patient’s pharmacological regimen, ensuring compliance, but also helping to address the questions and concerns of the patient and the patient’s family by both providing information as well as tailoring individual treatments to the patient’s needs. Treatment options known as ‘psychosocial interventions’ include cognitive behavioural therapy, psychoeducation, family therapy as well as interpersonal and social rhythm therapy. The goal of these forms of treatment is that they seek to educate the patient and the family while at the same time looking to help the patient deal with personal issues such as negative thought patterns and social issues that help to improve the relationships that might otherwise have been damaged by those negative thought patterns.
Other treatment options that might also be considered are electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which can be a very effective treatment. Unfortunately electroconvulsive therapy has in the past been used inadvisably and as such this form of treatment is often negatively perceived by both patients and family alike, despite its substantial potential benefits. There are also a number of herbal supplements that have been in the past used to treat depression. However, is in the case of the use of any herbal or natural remedy it is important to be fully informed. In some cases herbal treatments have not been fully regulated and although there are currently a number of studies looking at the potential benefits of treating bipolar disorder using these treatment options, and as such one should always be sure never to make any treatment decisions about bipolar disorder without fully consulting a trained and licensed healthcare professional who will be able to provide the most updated information in order to ensure that the choices made regarding the treatment of bipolar disorder are informed ones.