Millions of people are diagnosed with some type of mental illness. Many more may have a problem but not be receiving treatment because of lack of access to healthcare, the stigma associated with the illness, or the fact that they simply don’t understand what is wrong with them. Diagnosis and adequate care for a mental disorder are extremely important in helping people maintain a good quality of life. This also can keep them from becoming a danger to themselves or to others.
Bipolar disorder is one of the many types of mental illness and one of the most serious. It used to be referred to as manic depressive disorder and can be found in children as well as adults. Untreated, it can cause suicidal tendencies and other high risk behaviors. Because of the nature of the symptoms of this disease, it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose.
Doctors are unable to pinpoint a specific cause of bipolar disorder, but there is strong evidence that there is a genetic link to the disease. People who have a history of the disease in their family are more likely to be diagnosed than those without a similar history.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
The main symptom of bipolar disorder is a wide swing in moods. At one end of the spectrum there is the manic phase and at the other end is depression.
Characteristics of the manic phase include:
- Extreme excitability and restlessness
- Increased happiness, energy and sex drive
- Less need for sleep–it is not uncommon for people in the manic phase to go for days without sleep
- Racing thoughts
- Tendency to make grand, unachievable plans
Characteristics of the depression phase include:
- Change in appetite–either eating more or less than usual
- Anxiety and irritability
- Uncontrollable crying and sadness
- More need for sleep
- Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder
Once the disease has been correctly diagnosed by a doctor, there are several forms of treatment available. The most common treatment is drug therapy. Commonly prescribed drugs for bipolar disorder include Risperdal, Lithium, Seroquel and Abilify. Drugs are most often prescribed along with psychotherapy. This combination of treatment has been shown to be more effective than just drugs alone.
Some studies have indicated that fish oil from fatty fish such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel may be an effective supplement in controlling bipolar symptoms. Experts believe this is because the omega-3 acids found in these foods are powerful brain boosters.
Eating a diet that has less saturated fats and more fruits, vegetables and legumes, as well as exercising regularly, are important for a person with bipolar disorder. Studies have shown that they have a greater tendency towards obesity.
Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that must be correctly diagnosed and treated. With the help of medical professionals, family and friends, it is possible for people with this disease to lead full, productive lives.