Updated: December 2, 2017
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes extreme mood swings including emotional highs called mania or hypomania) and lows called depression.
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People with bipolar disorder appear to have physical changes in their brains. These changes are uncertain but may eventually help find out the exact causes.
Bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a family history.
Factors that may increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder include:
Untreated bipolar disorder can result in serious problems that affect every area of your life, such as:
Some other health conditions can worsen bipolar disorder symptoms or make treatment less successful. These include:
There is no way to prevent bipolar disorder. However, getting treatment at the earliest sign of a mental health disorder can help prevent bipolar disorder or other mental health conditions from worsening.
Following the below things can help prevent minor symptoms from becoming the episodes of mania or depression:
You can prevent the episodes from getting worse by addressing the symptoms on early stage. You may have identified a pattern to your bipolar episodes and what triggers them. If you feel that you are falling into an episode of depression or mania, consult your doctor. Involve family members or friends to watch for warning signs.
Using alcohol or recreational drugs can worsen your symptoms and make them more likely to come back.
Stopping your medication or reducing your dose on your own may cause withdrawal effects or your symptoms may worsen or return.
Since bipolar disorder does show distinct symptoms, there is no single test to confirm the condition. Often, a combination of methods is used to make a diagnosis. Many people deal with low emotional periods due to everyday stresses. However, emotional highs and lows associated with bipolar disorder can be more extreme. You may feel great and not understand the concerns of those around you until your mood shifts again.
Your evaluation may include:
A physical examination and lab tests can be done to identify any medical problems that could be causing your symptoms.
A psychiatrist may be recommended, who will talk to you about your thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns. You may also fill out a psychological self-assessment or questionnaire. Family members can also be involved to help the psychiatrist to provide information about your symptoms.
Keeping a daily record of your moods, sleep patterns or other factors could help with diagnosis and finding the right treatment.
Your psychiatrist may compare your symptoms with the criteria for bipolar and related disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Symptoms in children and teens often have different patterns and may not fit properly into the diagnostic categories. Other mental health conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or behavior problems are common in children with bipolar disorder. This can make diagnosis more complicated.
Therefore a child psychiatrist with experience in bipolar disorder is always recommended to diagnose bipolar disorder in children.