The exact cause of bipolar disorder isn’t known, but a combination of genetics, environment and altered brain structure and chemistry may play a role.
Formerly known as Manic Depression, Bipolar Mood Disorder is a debilitating psychiatric illness, or condition, that occurs in the brain and results in drastic fluctuations in mood.
It is inevitable that people will frequently experience a whole range of emotions and moods as they navigate the everyday challenges of existing in an increasingly fast-paced world. Moreover, most of us will find unique ways that help us deal with stress, as well as require tools – be they intentional or not; spiritual or physical – to manage our moods.
However, there are some people for whom their moods and emotions are anything but ordinary. Punctuated with bouts of intense fluctuations in mood, usually resulting in extreme highs or lows, the lives of people who suffer from Bipolar Mood Disorder can be disrupted to the point of debilitation and dysfunction.
The illness affects roughly 1 in every 100 people throughout the world.
Symptoms of mania/hypomania include, but are not limited to:
- Extreme euphoria
- Abnormal irritability
- Rapid and incoherent speech
- Intense but short-lived creativity
- Impulsive, reckless or irresponsible decisions
- Increased libido
- Inflated self-confidence
- Increase or decrease in appetite
Symptoms of depressive episodes include, but are not limited to:
- Thoughts of suicide
- Intense sadness
- An increased or loss of appetite
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Complete lack of motivation
- Little to no interest in pleasurable activities
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Slowed speech and behaviour
- Severe fatigue and a foggy mind
- Unwarranted or inappropriate feelings of guilt
These symptoms can lead to loss of work and dysfunctional relationships. In extreme cases, it can cause psychosis, which will likely require temporary hospitalisation. Psychosis manifests in fanciful hallucinations and delusions of superior physical and cognitive abilities.
What causes Bipolar disorder?
Since the mechanisms and physiological manifestations of BMD are still poorly understood, it is difficult to know precisely what causes the illness. Nevertheless, scientists and medical professionals postulate that genetic factors may play an essential role in the onset and development of the disorder.
Moreover, experts have linked traumatic events in early developmental years and substance abuse to BMD.
Although children can present with BMD symptoms early in life, the disorder most commonly begins to manifest during adolescence and early adulthood.
There is no cure for BMD; thus it is advised that those who suspect that they might have the illness get a proper diagnosis by a qualified medical practitioner. Treatment will require a combination of medications and therapy for the duration of someone’s life.
Are chemicals involved in the causes of Bipolar Mood Disorder?
Researchers from the Imperial College London, the University of Cambridge, and the National Institutes of Mental Health in the United States analysed brain tissue samples from the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for higher cognitive functioning. The study results confirmed that people who suffer from BMD presented with higher concentrations of chemicals in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex than what is considered to be normal concentrations.
Furthermore, the scientists now believe that an imbalance in both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters could be a central feature of the disorder.
The good news is that the same study revealed that many of the medications currently used to treat BMD were successful in restoring balance in the functioning of relevant neurotransmitters.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
Since the 19th and 20th-century leaps in discoveries which deepened scientific knowledge of BMD, experts have identified four specific types of bipolar.
Bipolar I disorder is characterised by cycles that include at least one severe manic episode and one or more major depressive episode. Each period usually varies in length, from weeks to months, and symptoms might also disappear entirely for months or years at a time.
Bipolar II disorder sufferers usually experience more depressive episodes than manic cycles. It is also more common for manic episodes to be less severe than those with Bipolar I, which is why it is classified as hypomanic phases amongst people who are diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder. As with Bipolar I, there may be varied lengths of time where sufferers can function well.
Cyclothymic disorder presents similarly to the depressive and manic/hypomanic cycles in Bipolar I and II, but symptoms are less intense, less frequent and do not last nearly as long as the types mentioned above. It is important to note that despite cyclothymic signs occurring to a lesser degree, it should not be considered to be insignificant or less dangerous than other types of bipolar disorder.
The fourth and final type of bipolar disorder is complicated to diagnose as the signs and symptoms are not as distinct as the other types. As a result, medical professionals and specialists find it challenging to pin down a concrete diagnosis.
Luckily, all four types of BMD are treatable, often with the same or similar combinations of approved drugs.