Bipolar Depression (Signs, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments)

Patients with Bipolar Disorder suffer from severe mood swings that fluctuate from utter depression to extreme mania, interspersed with normal moods.

Imagine this, at one point you feel as you are at the top of the world, random thoughts keep bombarding into your head and you feel this energy that needs to be expended one way or the other, a rush of adrenalin that must be attended to right away… you feel nothing can go wrong you are the achiever… and then suddenly in a blink of a second everything crashes. You feel let down, sad, low, struggle to face life the way it is; you cry, sleep, and cry more… you feel like ending your life to get rid of the misery! Scary isn’t it… but, that’s what a person with Bipolar depression has to go through over and again all his life!!

Bipolar depression, also known as major affective disorder, manic depressive disorder, or Bipolar disorder, is a serious mental disease in which the person suffers from severe mood swings and experiences cycles of  extreme elation to the extent of mania followed by periods of deep medical depression.

After reading about Bipolar Depression that most obvious query that one might have is what causes Bipolar disorder, am I susceptible to it?! Well, according to psychiatrists and research scientists, there are several causes for Bipolar Disorder. Though, genetics, hormonal imbalances, disturbances in the neurotransmitters, stress, substance abuse, and certain medications are known to increase the risk for this illness the exact cause as yet remains unknown.

Symptoms of Bipolar depression

Since the life of a person with Bipolar disorder is punctuated with periods of extreme zeal and productivity and phases of complete lack of desire to live, it is very difficult for the person and the people around to figure out what is going wrong or even realize that there is a problem. Additionally, people with bipolar depression are more likely to commit suicide than those with Major Depressive disorder. Hence, it is essential to understand the classic symptoms of this disease.

A sudden or dramatic mood change is one of the most obvious symptoms. However, not everyone may exhibit such mood cycling. In most people these mood changes are highly gradual and progress in stages. These stages include; severe depression, mild depression, normal or balanced mood, hypomania or mild mania and full blown mania.

  1. The depressive stage can be very severe and debilitating. A person will typically exhibit all the classic symptoms of clinical depression, including increased desire to sleep, fatigue, loss of appetite, indecisiveness, uncontrolled crying, feeling worthless, etc. (refer to what is depression for more details). A bipolar patient is highly likely to have suicidal thoughts during this stage. Several people may also indulge in self harm or self mutilation to get rid of the negative thoughts in their mind.
  2. Mild depressive stage is more likely to seem like an episode of feeling blue, and the person may be able to carry on daily activities but feel sad and have a nagging feeling of things not going the right way.
  3. A bipolar patient is not always manic or depressed; there are prolonged periods of normal mood and behavior when the person behaves and interacts in a completely normal way.
  4. Hypomania is a mild form of mania, in which a person is connected to reality and is able to carry out daily activities, but may, just feels unreasonably euphoric and energetic. Though, this condition does not harm the person in anyways, it can many times rapidly progress to full blown mania or in some cases severe depression.
  5. An episode of mania is usually characterized by an unrealistic feeling of grandiose and optimism, hyperactivity, a feeling of euphoria. People over estimate their capabilities; indulge in dangerous and reckless behavior, at times putting themselves and the people around them in jeopardy. However, during this whole episode of ecstasy a person may suddenly plunge into a metaphorical black hole and become highly irritable, confused, and angry towards life in general. In severe cases a person may also get delusional.

Diagnosis Bipolar Depression

Diagnosis of Bipolar depression does not involve any precise medical tests, X rays, or scans. The diagnosis is rather based upon a series of probing questions asked to the individual and the person’s family/friends. Since, the symptoms of Bipolar disorders are exhibited in form of a spectrum and not all individuals experience the same set of symptoms, there are very high chances of misdiagnosis. Hence, the doctor may hold several sittings and ask highly probing wide range of questions aimed at getting a clear picture of the person’s life, symptoms experienced, probable triggers (like childhood trauma, stress, substance abuse, etc.), family history (to rule out heredity influence), and medical history (for the probably medication or diseases that might have caused the symptoms).

Treatment of Bipolar depression

Like most other mental disorders, the treatment for Bipolar disorder is highly individualized and aimed at resolving the symptoms exhibited by a person in the best possible manner. The treatment for Bipolar depression involves long term therapies along with medications and social support to prevent relapse episodes. A Bipolar patient needs to be constantly monitored and the follow up has to be stringent. Bipolar people have a tendency to drop out of treatment as they tend to like the hypomaniac and maniac phases of the disease. They have to be constantly reminded of the consequences of these phases.

However, with proper treatment and therapy, Bipolars can lead a fairly productive life, in fact people with Bipolar personality are known to be highly creative and many famous personalities like Robin Williams and Vincent van Gogh are known Bipolars.

So if you know someone who shows symptoms of Bipolar depression or feel you might be having the disease, please do not hesitate had seek help at the earliest. For further information on the various clinical trials and  in this field do refer to my previous blog on the Advances in Bipolar disorder.

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