Diseases & Conditions


BipolarCausesDistinctive FeaturesMedicationsPreventionSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Bipolar?

Bipolar disorder, also referred to as manic depressive disorder, is a kind of mood disorder that is characterized by the occurrence of one or several episodes of abnormal elevated cognition and moods alternating with or without one or several episodes of depression.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is caused by multiple factors that act together. It may result as a result of some chemical imbalance in the brain. Chemical imbalance of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter, may cause Bipolar disorder. High or low levels of dopamine and serotonin are also believed to play a part in the development of this disorder.

Heredity and family genes are also responsible for the onset of manic depressive disorder. Family members are at risk of inheriting this disease, especially if a person has an identical twin who is suffering from this condition.

Some kind of stress is required to trigger a manic or depressive episode. Emotional stress, substance abuse, any illness or stressful event seem to contribute to the onset of Bipolar.

Distinctive Features of Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar disease is different from ordinary mood swings. In Bipolar disorder, extreme mood swings are observed which range from a person becoming very depressed to feeling creative and hyperactive (mania).
  • Sometimes, the symptoms of both depression and mania may occur simultaneously in a ‘mixed state’.
  • Mood extremes usually occur in patterns and cycles. In the interim period, the person may be able to carry on a normal life and function normally.
  • Severe depression can be associated with thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts.
  • Extreme mania may result in homicidal acts, aggressive behavior, risk taking and potentially dangerous behavior.

Medications for Bipolar Disease

There are a number of prescribed medications available for the treatment of Bipolar disease. Many doctors start treatment by prescribing lithium. Other possible medications include carbamazepine (Tegretol), lamotrigine (Lamictal), valproic acid (Depakote) and Quetiapine (Seroquel).

Manic depressive disorder medications used to treat psychosis like risperidone (Risperdal) and olanzapine (Zyprexa) may also be used to treat Bipolar disorder. Anti depressant medication is prescribed along with a mood stabilized when depression episodes take place. Symbyax (a combination of fluoxetine and olanzapine) is a ready made approved combination medication which can be used for treating bipolar depression.

Prevention of Bipolar

  • Avoid drugs that may act as triggering agents for the disease
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle with good exercise and regular sleep
  • Prevent relapse by following the treatment action plan and attending counseling sessions.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disease

Depression and mania are the two extreme phases of Bipolar disease. During mania, a person may feel euphoric, indestructible, and unrealistic. Behavioral changes are noticed. The person may spend more money, have increased sexual appetite, less food and sleep, talk quickly and go from one subject to another rapidly in an uncontrolled manner, display increased gestures like pacing or tapping feet, become irritable and have poor temper control, poor judgment. In severe cases, a person may suffer from hallucinations and delusions.

During manic depressive disorder, a person may encounter crying spells, sadness, excessive guilt and worrying, lack of interest in normal life, loss of appetite or excessive eating, disturbed sleep or excessive sleeping, lack of focus and forgetfulness, social withdrawal , loss of interest in hobbies, chronic pain with no obvious physical cause.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

With appropriate therapy, people with Bipolar disease can lead productive and stable lives. The treatment focuses on medications that can stabilize mood swings and counseling sessions with a therapist. Medicines may not always work immediately; they may be altered many times to arrive at the right combination of drugs. Treatment also requires the active support of family members and friends.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are five main types of bipolar disorder, all of them characterized by episodes of mania and depression in varying degrees. They are

  • Bipolar I
  • Bipolar II
  • Cyclothymic disorder
  • Mixed Bipolar
  • Rapid cycling Bipolar disorder