Bipolar disorder, which is also called bipolar affective disorder or manic depression, usually consists of episodes of mania (feelings of excitement) alternating with episodes of depression. We all have our ups and downs in life, but for someone with bipolar disorder, the highs and lows are excessive. These severe mood changes have a significant impact on the person’s family, emotional, and social life and finances.
People with bipolar disorder don’t always swing between depression and euphoria. They may have a stable mood for some time between episodes of extreme mood changes.
The first episode usually appears between the ages of 15 and 25. A similar number of men and women develop this disease. During the depressive phase, up to 15% of people can have suicidal thoughts. During the manic phase, they can become very agitated and start projects that are impossible to complete.
During the manic phase, people with bipolar disorder can feel like they’re on a high for a period of at least one week, during which they may also experience the following symptoms:
Of course, all of these behaviour changes have an impact on the person's life. Symptoms of mania will vary from person to person, and their intensity will also vary. For some people, symptoms will be very intense and will require hospitalization. For others, the symptoms will be less intense and of shorter duration. This type of episode is known as “hypomania”: in contrast to mania, the person can still function in society, and sometimes more so than in their normal state.
Depressive episodes are often longer than episodes of mania and last at least two weeks. The following symptoms may occur:
Although bipolar disorder can't be cured, the symptoms can be controlled with psychotherapy, a healthy lifestyle, and the right medication.
One goal of psychotherapy is to help you better understand the disease, recognize the triggers of manic episodes, and develop good reactions to stress. Therapy can also help you adopt a healthy lifestyle that will help prevent symptoms.
Bipolar disorder is a chronic disease. People with this disorder generally have to take medication for the rest of their lives. Mood stabilizers are required to treat the illness. As the name indicates, these drugs stabilize mood over the long term. Antidepressants or antipsychotics may also be prescribed, depending on symptoms. Some antipsychotics are used alone. When people with bipolar disorder take the proper medication at the right dose, they can thrive and pursue their life goals.
Never stop your medication without talking to a health care professional. If you have questions about your treatment or if you experience side effects, don’t hesitate to talk to your pharmacist, who is there to help.