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Mental health guide: understanding bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder, also referred to as manic depression, is a severe mental illness that is characterised by mood swings, ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. While it is normal to experience mood swings in life, people suffering bipolar disorder experience extreme episodes of depression and mania that come in alternation. The facts of bipolar disorder show the condition needs serious attention.

Bipolar disorder facts

Research shows that up to 5% of the general population falls within the bipolar disorder spectrum with between 1% and 2% of the population suffering a lifetime prevalence of bipolar. When compared to other mental health problems, bipolar remains one of the most misunderstood and stigma-ridden mental health problem around. The disorder is misdiagnosed on average 3.5 times before a correct diagnosis is made. In the UK, it takes on average ten-and-a-half years to get a correct diagnosis of bipolar.

Diagnoses of bipolar

There are several diagnoses of bipolar that can be made. The most common bipolar diagnosis in the UK include:

- Bipolar I that is characterised by episodes of mania where the patient experiences depressive periods

- Bipolar II that is characterised by severe periods of depression in alternation with episodes of hypomania

- Rapid cycling that is characterised by four or more episodes of mania, hypomania, depression or a mix of these states in a year

- Cyclothymic disorder that is characterised by short periods of mild hypomania and depression, and

- Mixed state that is characterised by short episodes of elation and depression all at the same time.

How to tell if you have bipolar

Bipolar affects people differently and can be triggered by many things. This makes it difficult to tell if you suffer from the illness. For example, in women bipolar can occur during menopause and be triggered by childbirth. While difficult to diagnose, there are some signs and symptoms that indicate you may be suffering from bipolar disorder. Among the symptoms that can help identify bipolar are:

- Feelings of euphoria

- Extreme irritability

- Aggressive behaviour

- Restlessness

- Lack of sleep

- Lack of concentration

- Drug and alcohol abuse, and

- Increased sexual drive

Treatment of bipolar

It is important that you go to see your doctor whenever you suspect you may be suffering from bipolar. Your doctor will refer you to a specialist mental health expert who will confirm the diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, you can discuss the various treatment options available for bipolar with your doctors.

Bipolar treatment often involves the use of several mood stabilisers, which are also used to treat epilepsy. Lithium is one of the mood stabilisers used to treat bipolar with good results. That said, you can always request other treatment options for bipolar disorder like the use of natural dietary supplements if the uses of mood stabilisers does not suit you. Treatment helps beat the mental illness.

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