According to a National Institute of Mental Health estimate, 43.8 million adult Americans suffer from a mental ailment, with 2.6% (6.1 million) cases of bipolar disorder.1 Bipolar disorder affects the brain and causes extreme mood fluctuations. It also impacts energy levels and hampers one’s ability to function normally.2
This disorder affects men and women equally and usually manifests itself for the first time between the age of 15 and 25 years. The exact causes are yet to be ascertained. But specific factors such as sudden trauma, heavy medication, insomnia, and even recreational drug use can trigger an episode, which could last anywhere between a few days to a few months, or even more.3
Types Of Bipolar Disorder
- Bipolar disorder I is characterized by extreme mood swings that take a person from a manic state to a state of depression.
- In bipolar disorder II, a person suffers from either a manic episode or a depressive episode only. Such people usually also suffer from other mental illnesses like anxiety.
- Cyclothymic disorder is a milder form of bipolar involving multiple mood swings that are not as severe as those in bipolar I or II.4
Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder
Symptoms of bipolar disorder in adults are primarily categorized under manic and depressive episodes. Manic episodes are characterized by hyper-energetic behavior. A depressive episode, on the other hand, may mean being completely deflated in terms of energy levels and overall happiness. In both episodes, insomnia is a common feature.5
Manic and depressive episodes alternate with each other, sometimes lasting up to a couple of months. These are the red flags you need to keep an eye out for.
- Spells of exaggerated happiness
- Sudden irritability
- Prolonged lack of concentration
- Display of inflated self-esteem
- Rapid and non-stop chatter, often on unrelated subjects
- An intensive approach to activities
- Impulsive and often reckless behavior6
- Sudden bouts of sadness
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Inability to savor things that were once enjoyable
- Constant worry
- Inability to concentrate
- Extreme forgetfulness
- Binge eating or starvation
- Suicidal thoughts and tendencies7
Research shows some clear gender differences in the way bipolar disorder manifests itself. The onset of the disorder is earlier in men than women, and the latter have a more seasonal pattern to the onset of their symptoms. Women also tend toward bipolar II, characterized by more depressive episodes. Bipolar women are often more prone to ailments such as thyroid, migraines, and anxiety disorders than men. In the long run, this may mean higher chances of delayed diagnosis in women than in men.8
Children and teens too can suffer from bipolar disorder and may display the same range of symptoms as adults. Here too bipolar disorder can be triggered by substance abuse or a related mental affliction like separation anxiety. Bipolar disorder is also seen at times in children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).9
There are times when a person might experience both manic and depressive symptoms simultaneously. In such a mixed feature episode, they can simultaneously be sad and lost and yet feel completely pumped with energy.
The mood swings are not always extreme. A milder version of the mania is called hypomania, where a person may go about their usual routine with only subtle changes in behavior being perceived by those around them. Left unchecked, this can lead to larger bouts of mania and depression.10
Dealing With Bipolar Disorder
After correct diagnosis by an expert, a range of treatment and medication options can enable a person with bipolar disorder to live a regular life. A study by Russell and Browne indicated that participants with bipolar disorder who managed to remain well did so by being attuned to their illness.11 They would create “stay-well” plans and seek intervention to pre-empt episodes of illness.
Studies on the role of yoga as a complementary treatment option for psychiatric conditions like bipolar disorder are underway. Meyer et al. point out that there are encouraging outcomes to support the use of yoga in bipolar disorder treatment.12 A self-questionnaire based study by Uebelacker et al. also showed that yoga, especially hatha and vinyasa yoga, could reduce anxiety and depression and increase positive emotional effects in people with bipolar disorder.13 But researchers also stress the need for more extensive studies to substantiate the use of yoga as an ancillary treatment option.
Bipolar disorder once diagnosed correctly is a condition a person can manage and gain control over. Being mindful of the symptoms along with the right medication and a disciplined lifestyle can go a long way in staying on course.
|↑1||Any Mental Illness (AMI) Among U.S. Adults, National institute of Mental Health.|
|↑2||Bipolar Disorder, National Institute of Mental Health.|
|↑3||Bipolar disorder, U.S National Library of Medicine.|
|↑4||What Are Bipolar Disorders? American Psychiatric Association.|
|↑5, ↑7, ↑10||Bipolar Disorder, National Institute of Mental Health.|
|↑6||Bipolar disorder, University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑8||Arnold, Lesley M. “Gender differences in bipolar disorder.” Psychiatric Clinics of North America 26, no. 3 (2003): 595-620.|
|↑9||Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens, National Institute of Mental Health.|
|↑11||Russell, Sarah J., and Jan L. Browne. “Staying well with bipolar disorder.” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 39, no. 3 (2005): 187-193.|
|↑12||Meyer, Hilary B., Alina Katsman, Alexander C. Sones, Daniel E. Auerbach, Donna Ames, and Robert T. Rubin. “Yoga as an ancillary treatment for neurological and psychiatric disorders: a review.” The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences (2012).|
|↑13||Uebelacker, Lisa A., Lauren M. Weinstock, and Morganne A. Kraines. “Self-reported benefits and risks of yoga in individuals with bipolar disorder.” Journal of Psychiatric Practice® 20, no. 5 (2014): 345-352.|