Among the more than five million adults in America who have Bipolar Disorder, these “mood swings” can be extreme or frequent. These changes in mood aren’t as simple as transitioning from “happy” to “sad.” With Bipolar Disorder, symptoms can include both a lowering of mood (depression) and an exaggerated elevation of mood (mania). These changes occur in cycles and are referred to as “episodes.” People with Bipolar Disorder experience extreme mood swings that can take three different forms: manic, depressive, and mixed episodes.
Bipolar Disorder is a disease thought to be caused by changes in the chemistry of the brain. The symptoms and severity of the condition can vary, but with the proper treatment, Bipolar Disorder symptoms can be managed.
How Bipolar I Disorder is diagnosed
On average, people with Bipolar Disorder spend ten years seeking treatment before finally getting diagnosed. One survey found that as many as 70% of people with Bipolar Disorder are initially diagnosed with a different condition. Often, this is because people only tend to seek treatment during a depressive episode and neglect to discuss manic symptoms with their healthcare professional. There are no lab tests or other procedures for diagnosing Bipolar Disorder. Instead, a healthcare professional must take a very thorough history of both the patient and, if possible, the patient's family. Bipolar Disorder does tend to run in families, although having a family history of the condition doesn't necessarily mean a person will develop Bipolar Disorder. By being open and detailed about their symptoms, people can help their healthcare professional arrive at a correct diagnosis. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can help.
Causes of Bipolar I Disorder
While the causes of Bipolar Disorder are still unknown, the symptoms are thought to be triggered by an imbalance of some key chemicals in the brain. The brain is made up of billions of nerve cells that move a constant stream of information from one cell to another. To keep the information flowing, these cells release chemicals known as “neurotransmitters” that are needed for brain function. Many scientists believe that when the levels of these neurotransmitters are too high or too low, this may result in symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, such as extreme happiness, irritability, sadness, or a lack of energy.
There is nothing specifically that someone does to “get” Bipolar Disorder, nor is it anyone’s fault. Bipolar Disorder is a disease like other diseases that may simply occur in certain people.
Bipolar Disorder can impact relationships, families, friends, and personal goals. Learn more about how to talk about Bipolar Disorder with the people in your life.