Natural treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by regular and abrupt mood swings from euphoric 'highs' or periods of intense irritability to severe 'lows'. Around one in 100 people suffer from the disorder, which affects men and women equally.

Bipolar disorder was previously called 'manic depression'. Two main types exist: people with bipolar I have experienced at least one fully manic episode with periods of major depression. People with bipolar II also have periods of major depression, but without full-fledged mania. Instead, they have hypomania, a milder form of mania with in- creased energy and impulsiveness. Still milder is cyclothymic disorder, characterized by alternating periods of hypomania and mild, but not severe, depression.

CAUSES

Although the cause is unknown, there appears to be a genetic link: 80 to 90 percent of people with bipolar disorder have a family member with either depression or bipolar disorder.

 

Environmental factors like extreme stress, sleep disruption, and drug and alcohol abuse may trigger bipolar disorder in people who are vulnerable.

The causes of bipolar disorder aren’t completely understood, but it often runs in families. The first manic or depressive episode of bipolar disorder usually occurs in the teenage years or early adulthood. The symptoms can be subtle and confusing, so many people with bipolar disorder are overlooked or misdiagnosed–resulting in unnecessary suffering. But with proper treatment and support, you can lead a rich and fulfilling life. 

Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) causes serious shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior–from the highs of mania on one extreme, to the lows of depression on the other. More than just a fleeting good or bad mood, the cycles of bipolar disorder last for days, weeks, or months. And unlike ordinary mood swings, the mood changes of bipolar disorder are so intense that they interfere with your ability to function.

During a manic episode, a person might impulsively quit a job, charge up huge amounts on credit cards, or feel rested after sleeping two hours. During a depressive episode, the same person might be too tired to get out of bed and full of self-loathing and hopelessness over being unemployed and in debt.

 

Bipolar disorder causes and triggers

Bipolar disorder has no single cause. It appears that certain people are genetically predisposed to bipolar disorder. Yet not everyone with an inherited vulnerability develops the illness, indicating that genes are not the only cause. Some brain imaging studies show physical changes in the brains of people with bipolar disorder. Other research points to neurotransmitter imbalances, abnormal thyroid function, circadian rhythm disturbances, and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

External environmental and psychological factors are also believed to be involved in the development of bipolar disorder. These external factors are called triggers. Triggers can set off new episodes of mania or depression or make existing symptoms worse. However, many bipolar disorder episodes occur without an obvious trigger.

Stress – Stressful life events can trigger bipolar disorder in someone with a genetic vulnerability. These events tend to involve drastic or sudden changes–either good or bad–such as getting married, going away to college, losing a loved one, getting fired, or moving.

Substance Abuse – While substance abuse doesn’t cause bipolar disorder, it can bring on an episode and worsen the course of the disease. Drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamines can trigger mania, while alcohol and tranquilizers can trigger depression.

Medication – Certain medications, most notably antidepressant drugs, can trigger mania. Other drugs that can cause mania include over-the-counter cold medicine, appetite suppressants, caffeine, corticosteroids, and thyroid medication.

Seasonal Changes – Episodes of mania and depression often follow a seasonal pattern. Manic episodes are more common during the summer, and depressive episodes more common during the fall, winter, and spring.

 

Sleep Deprivation – Loss of sleep—even as little as skipping a few hours of rest—can trigger an episode of mania.

There is no known way to prevent bipolar disorder, although it is likely that alcohol or drug abuse exacerbate symptoms. 

Symptoms vary from person to person and include agitation, trembling and palpitations. They may resemble symptoms of depression with feelings of hopelessness and sadness, or symptoms of anxiety with worry and nervousness. Other types of adjustment disorders can include violence, impulsive behaviour, or social withdrawal.

Adjustment disorders may be classified as acute, lasting less than six months, or chronic, lasting longer. When symptoms persist longer than six months after the termination of the trigger, the diagnosis may change to a more serious mental health problem. Other mental health disorders should be ruled out before a diagnosis of adjustment disorder is made. 

Diagnosis is based on symptoms without other possible causes, both physical and mental. Bipolar II and cyclothymia are sometimes mistaken for depression and fail to receive adequate treatment.

The manic phase of bipolar disorder includes an elevated expansive or irritable mood, and can include racing thoughts, increased talkativeness, increased energy, inflated self-esteem, agitation, distractibility, decreased need for sleep or poor control of temper. Reckless behaviour and impaired judgment may result in spending sprees, sexual prorniscuiry, binge eating  and drinking, or drug use.

 

These manic phases can last for days, weeks or months. Sometimes mania co-exists simultaneously with depression in a type of bipolar episode called a 'mixed episode'. Symptoms of depression include loss of interest or enjoyment in life, chronic unhappiness, inability to concentrate, strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness and even thoughts of suicide. The most common physical symptoms include loss of appetite and weight change, trouble sleeping, fatigue or agitation and decreased libido. Most individuals with bipolar I disorder return to full functioning between mood episodes. Although unusual in children and teenagers, bipolar disorder can occur. However, the symptoms of mania are more likely to be irritability, aggressiveness and destructive tantrums, which may be confused with ADHD, conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder. To diagnose bipolar disorder, a mental healthcare provider will observe the person's behaviour and mood, take an individual and family medical history, ask about symptoms and talk to family members about the person's behaviour. Laboratory tests may be done to rule out other disorders. For example, thyroid disorders  can cause changes in energy and mood, although it can also co-exist with bipolar disorder. Drug abuse may also cause some of the same symptoms as bipolar disorder, but it does not rule out the disorder because it can also be a symptom. Other mental disorders can be present with bipolar disorder. 

Signs and symptoms of bipolar depression

In the past, bipolar depression was lumped in with regular depression. But a growing body of research suggests that there are significant differences between the two, especially when it comes to recommended treatments. Most people with bipolar depression are not helped by antidepressants. In fact, there is a risk that antidepressants can make bipolar disorder worse–triggering mania or hypomania, causing rapid cycling between mood states, or interfering with other mood stabilizing drugs.

Despite many similarities, certain symptoms are more common in bipolar depression than in regular depression. For example, bipolar depression is more likely to involve irritability, guilt, unpredictable mood swings, and feelings of restlessness. People with bipolar depression also tend to move and speak slowly, sleep a lot, and gain weight. In addition, they are more likely to develop psychotic depression–a condition in which they’ve lost contact with reality–and to experience major disability in work and social functioning.

Common symptoms of bipolar depression include:

·         Feeling hopeless, sad, or empty.

·         Irritability

·         Inability to experience pleasure

·         Fatigue or loss of energy

·         Physical and mental sluggishness

·         Appetite or weight changes

·         Sleep problems

·         Concentration and memory problems

·         Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

·         Thoughts of death or suicide

·         Signs and symptoms of a mixed episode

A mixed episode of bipolar disorder features symptoms of both mania or hypomania and depression. Common signs of a mixed episode include depression combined with agitation, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, distractibility, and racing thoughts. This combination of high energy and low mood makes for a particularly high risk of suicide.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic illness that requires long-term medication treatment. Some patients stop taking their medication because their symptoms disappear or they miss the euphoria of the manic phases. Because suicide occurs in 10 to 15 percent of those with bipolar disorder I, it is important ro follow treatment plans.

• MEDICATION Mood-stabilizers such as lithium and a anticonvulsants such as valproate and carba-mazepine are often used to treat bipolar disorder. Blood tests are used to check the levels of lithium and, sometimes, that of the anti-convulsants. Newer anti-convulsant drugs such as lamotrigine, gabapentin, and topiramate are being pre- scribed. Although they require less monitoring, their effectiveness in bipolar disorders is still being studied. Antidepressants may be used for the depressive phase, but mood stabilizers are also given to prevent manic episodes once the depression is relieved. Antipsychotics may be prescribed for those with psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. Anti-anxiety drugs such as the benzodiazepines may provide some relief.

• HOSPITALIZATION Hospitalization may be required for patients with severe symproms until their moods are stabilized.

• ELECTROCONVULSIVE THERAPY

(ECT) An electrical current is used to trigger a brief seizure while the patient is under anaesthesia in a hospital. It can relieve severe depression that does not respond to medication, but can cause temporary memory loss and confusion.

• PSYCHOTHERAPY Cognitive- behavioural therapy teaches the patient how to change negative or inappropriate thought patterns and behaviour. Psycho education teaches patients and family members about the illness, its signs and its treatments. Family therapy involves all family members so that stressful behaviour is reduced and coping strategies implemented.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy aims to create regular daily routines and sleep schedules, im- proving interpersonal relationships and preventing manic episodes. Support groups can provide education and coping strategies.

• SLEEP Getting enough sleep can help patients keep stable.

 

 

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