Bipolar spectrum disorder is a manic-depressive illness, resulting in unusual mood swings and energy levels that can hamper daily life. It is also known as bipolar affective disorder or manic depression. It refers to an entire range of disorder levels. It can be defined as a single, mild episode or multiple, severe clinical mood swings. These mood shift episodes are usually separated by periods of normal behavior. However, in some cases, depression and manic illness may alternate frequently. This rapid shifting of mood is known as rapid cycling. This disorder exhibits itself during late teens or early adult years. Most diagnosed cases have a history of acquiring it before the age of 25.
Bipolar disorder is categorized by severity and frequency of mood swing episodes experienced by patients. This disorder lasts for an entire lifetime, occurring mostly as distanced or frequent depressive episodes. The condition is diagnosed based on the guidelines issued by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). According to them, this disorder is of the following four types:
Bipolar I Disorder
This mood disorder is a combination of at least one manic or mixed episode within the last two continuous weeks or episodes of hypomania or major depression that need immediate hospital care. It is considered as a classic concept of manic-depressive illness.
Bipolar II Disorder
Bipolar II disorder is characterized by at least one hypomanic episode, which occurs more frequently and with more intensity than manic episodes, and major depressive episode. This type is more difficult to diagnose, as hypomanic behavior often presents itself as a period of high productivity.
Cyclothymic Disorder or Cyclothymia
This mood disorder is a milder form of bipolar II disorder. It is characterized by the presence of hypomanic episodes, with periods of recurring mood disturbances between hypomania and dysthymia (mood disorder of depression), for a period of minimum two years. The mood swings are not very severe but tend to interfere with the daily functions.
Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS)
Bipolar-NOS, also known as sub-threshold bipolar disorder, is diagnosed when an individual is showing the symptoms of both bipolar I and II, but still does not meet the exact criteria for either of the above-mentioned subtypes.
- Long periods of feeling extremely high and happy
- A feeling of nagging, emptiness, and constant worry
- Irritable mood swings, like agitation or uneasiness
- Loss of interest in activities
- Being easily distracted, while concentrating and making decisions
- Changes in sleeping, eating, etc., patterns
- Talking very quickly, in an excited manner
- Feeling exhausted after doing very little work
- Prone to restlessness
Bipolar affective disorder has no known cure and is a lifelong and recurrent illness. Once diagnosed by a medical practitioner, treatment in the form of a combination of medications and therapies is administered. Medications include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and atypical antipsychotic and sleep medications. Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, psychoeducation, and family-focused therapy may be prescribed to help the affected person lead a better life.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for the advice of a mental health expert.