Bipolar Affective Disorder

If your mood is fluctuating up and down uncontrollably you may have Bipolar. Help is available.

Bipolar Affective Disorder is a psychiatric illness that causes severe mood swings in which a patient experiences extreme highs and lows in mood.

Causes

Bipolar Affective Disorder is often caused by genetic vulnerability. It can be triggered by brain injury, having a baby, stress, or certain medications.

Symptoms

The individual experiences highs and lows of mood. The highs can be extreme feelings of happiness and over-excitement where the individual is full of energy and ideas. The person may have multiple unrealistic plans and speak very quickly. They are often impulsive and reckless when making decisions. This is known as mania. However, not everyone experiences mania. Some people experience hypo-mania in which the above symptoms are experienced to a slightly lesser degree and therefore are often ignored as eccentricity or vulnerability.

Unfortunately almost every high is followed by a deep low. Bipolar depression causes irritability, a loss of pleasure for life, loss of energy, disturbed sleep and appetite, an inability to concentrate, a loss of motivation and feelings of negativity that can sometimes lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Treatment

Treatment involves the use of mood stabilising medication that help to lessen the highs and lows. These medications need to be taken for at least 6 months but sometimes longer. Often the patient also requires talking therapies that help them to understand their triggers, their vulnerabilities and to gain insight in to how their behaviours may be contributing in part to their illness.