Bipolar Disorder

Steps Recovery Center recognizes how vital the mind, body, and spirit are in their connection to the whole person. We take a holistic approach to treating bipolar disorder that includes treating the whole person, and find that it tends to be more successful, especially since mental illness affects every aspect of a person’s life. With a customized and individualized program, a holistic approach just makes sense. It affords an opportunity to meet the patient’s physical and psychological needs and allows them to engage physically, emotionally, and mentally. What used to be referred to as manic depression has now been labeled as bipolar disorder, meaning your emotions are like a rollercoaster with extreme highs and lows. The disorder has phases, from mild to severe, and vary from person-to-person. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that can be controlled with various methods.
The Science Behind Bipolar
There are two neurotransmitters in the brain that can play a role in developing bipolar disorder: serotonin and dopamine.
Serotonin
This chemical is released by nerve cells in your brain, which acts as a messenger to control your moods. When the levels of serotonin decrease, it can cause a dip in your mood. Too severe of a drop, and it can cause depression to set in.
Dopamine
Associated with the regulation of thoughts and emotions, as well as helping control movements in the body, a decrease in the neurotransmitter, dopamine, can slow movement and motivation. On the other hand, high levels of the chemical can result in mania or increased movement and motivation. When both of these chemicals swing wildly from one extreme to the other, it results in bipolar disorder, which has different phases.
Bipolar Phases
There are four types of mood disorders within bipolar: mania, hypomania, depression, and mixed episodes. However, there are two main phases of bipolar disorder, which includes bipolar mania or hypomania and depression.
         Bipolar or Hypomania – The symptoms associated with this phase include:
  • Euphoria or irritability
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Excessive talk (rambling) or racing thoughts
  • Increased energy and activity
  • Abnormal energy and less need for sleep
  • Impulsiveness and a reckless pursuit of gratification that includes shopping sprees, more and sometimes promiscuous sex, impetuous travel, fast driving, or high-risk investments.
    Bipolar Depression/Major Depression – These symptoms included with these phases are:
  • Sadness, loneliness, guilt, or helplessness
  • Slow speech, fatigue, and poor concentration
  • Low energy levels and apathy
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Poor concentration
  • Depressed mood and low self-esteem
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities
The above-mentioned symptoms can be mild or severe and can vary widely in their pattern, severity, and frequency, with people cycling quickly, or in weeks or months intervals. Some can have frequent mood disruptions while others just a few over their lifetime. The problem with bipolar is that moods can change on a dime when triggered by stressful events or thoughts. It can affect work, relationships, and everyday life in general for many people.  When someone is experiencing a manic episode of bipolar disorder, they may feel invincible. Their energy and creativity are heightened; they may not sleep much and will buy impulsively, or talk fast as if they’re on some drug. For the person, the euphoria feels great, but if not controlled, it can quickly spiral out of control. On the flip side, someone experiencing hypomania may experience the same signs and symptoms, but they don’t affect their day-to-day life or lose touch with reality. But, hypomania can get out of control as well, so it’s essential to not ignore these signs since they can be replaced by a major depressive episode shortly after.
Causes and Triggers
Bipolar disorder can’t be tied to one cause. It appears that some people can be genetically predisposed to it, but not everyone who has that issue will develop the disorder. Brain imaging shows physical changes in the brains of people with bipolar, with some research pointing to chemical imbalances, abnormal thyroid function, circadian rhythm disturbances, and increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Some triggers include:
  • Stress
  • Substance abuse
  • Seasonal changes
  • Medication
  • Sleep disturbances or deprivation
Bipolar Treatment
Antidepressants aren’t usually helpful for most bipolar disorders and can make it worse since they can trigger mania or hypomania, causing rapid cycling between mood states. It can interfere with other mood-stabilizing drugs as well. Getting treatment for bipolar disorder should involve several methods, such as mediation, therapy, exercise, medication, and ways to help manage the symptoms—whether naturally or with the help of a doctor or psychologist. For some people, treatment may involve an in-patient recovery center that can give personal care and needed tools to manage their condition.