The term, “Bi” itself indicates that Bipolar Disorder is a combination of two extremes of behavior—extreme joy and extreme sadness. It is hard for the family members to even acknowledge it as an illness, considering that the individual’s labile emotions keep swinging between a manic state (euphoria) and a depressive (gloomy) one.
To make it even more complicated, a particular mood episode may exhibit alternate bouts of both. Hence, this disorder is also termed as Manic-Depressive illness.
With the destruction of nerve cells in the brain, its functioning becomes impaired. It is the seat of emotions that is largely affected; hence, bipolar disorder. This peculiar mental illness can destroy performances in educational institutions, cause work to suffer, affect normal relationships badly and result in umpteen suicides.
Now, what exactly is witnessed in an individual suffering from Bipolar disorder?
During a manic mood episode, the person is on an emotional high, so much so that there is an unrealistic perception of one’s own powers and capabilities. The word, “failure” does not exist in this patient’s dictionary. Sleep is limited due to enhanced energy and a deep sense of restlessness. Thoughts keep running into one another, and there is difficulty concentrating. The rapidity with which the person speaks indicates poor judgment and grandiose ideas. Overt behavior may be extremely irritable or extremely provocative.
The depressed mood episode is just the reverse. There is absolutely no motivation to do anything. The individual is unable to sleep, since he/she is depressed
over his own sense of worthlessness. Daily tasks seem tedious and difficult. The ultimate state is where the individual is contemplating suicide. These symptoms may not disappear within a day; they may last for one or two weeks too.
Since school has been mentioned so often, it is easy to comprehend that Bipolar disorder attacks those in their late teens or in early adulthood. It is possible to exhibit symptoms even during childhood, or quite late in life. But the majority of cases are below 25 years of age.
The illness can be a lifelong one, but with good treatment, the victims can deal with their erratic moods in a much better way, and even get back to productive lifestyles. There are mood stabilizers that have to be taken regularly. It has to be stated here that the illness can recur, but the patient can be re-treated. Current clinical trials may yet come up with a miracle drug to cure Bipolar disorder completely.
It is important that all those involved in the individual’s treatment—psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse and family members—keep track of the medications and treatment. It helps to have a chart to record daily mood swings, sleep patterns and so on. The psychiatrist then finds it helpful to stick to the same drugs or to change the course of treatment, accordingly. And of course, psychotherapy forms a very essential part of the treatment too.