Bipolar disorder (sometimes referred to as manic depression) is an illness where a person experiences severe shifts in mood.
The individual moves back and forth between extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression). When a person experiences a manic phase they may feel happiness, unlimited energy, and be extremely productive.
When they hit a depressive, low phase, symptoms may be dangerous resulting in despair, isolation, and even suicidal ideation.
If left untreated, bipolar disorder can be extremely dangerous and can cause disruptions in people’s daily lives. It may limit their functioning, cause unexpected hindrances, or may impair their ability to socialize with others.
However, if treated, a person can live a regular and fully functioning life with bipolar disorder.
There are various types of bipolar disorder, but a combination of medication and regular psychotherapy can minimize obstacles, by stabilizing mood and helping patients understand the ins and outs of their illness.
Genetics and Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is in part caused by problems with brain functioning and neurotransmitters.
However, there are also strong connections made to genetics and the disorder. Genetic links may predispose certain individuals to problems with brain functioning. While bipolar disorder is multi-faceted, studies have shown that there may be a genetic component in those who possess the disorder.
Research has shown that bipolar disorder may run in families. The strongest link is between twins. Studies show that twins will often possess similar inclinations and have high rates of both possessing a mental illness, like bipolar disorder.
The instability of living in an environment with a parent with bipolar disorder may cause an increase in its risk of development. This may occur in children who already had genetic links to the disorder. Genetics and an unstable environment increase the risk of a bipolar disorder diagnosis. It is extremely important to treat bipolar disorder in parents if there are minor children in the home.
Bipolar Disorder In Children and Trauma
While genetics may play a role in bipolar disorder development, early environment may also be a cause. Multiple reports cite, “There are consistent indications that childhood traumatic events are associated with various severe clinical characteristics of BD, including an earlier onset of the illness, a rapid cycling course, psychotic features, a higher number of lifetime mood episodes, and suicide ideation.”
While children may inherit genetics links predisposing them to bipolar disorder, living in a home with a parent who has the disorder is also a factor. Children of bipolar parents grow up in a chaotic environment with various types of unexpected stressors and disruptions. For a child, it can be incredibly harmful to live with a parent with intense mood swings, especially if they escalate into physical outbursts.
If bipolar disorder in the parent has not been treated or diagnosed, the resulting chaos will be confusing for all parties. In fact, bipolar disorder in children may even develop due to traumatic experiences and living environments.
In addition to bipolar disorder, the parent may also suffer from substance abuse and may become additionally harmful during phases of the disorder. Children may experience trauma due to repeated abusive episodes of a parent with unpredictable behaviors and actions. Others may experience irrational verbal or emotional abuse if the parent’s disorder has not been treated or diagnosed.
Children are in incredibly vulnerable positions, because they rely on parents and guardians for their emotional and physical safety. A parent with untreated bipolar disorder may not be capable of providing this.
More specifically, childhood physical abuse has been studied in its connection to bipolar disorder. Trauma in childhood may be a predictor of bipolar disorder. People with the disorder often cite traumatic events and severe negative experiences, dating back decades. Childhood trauma in all its forms is strongly linked to bipolar disorder in adulthood.
Treating Bipolar Disorder
Today, it is more than possible to live a healthy, full life with bipolar disorder. Medications, like mood stabilizers, may be prescribed to help people suffering from bipolar disorder.
Depakote or Lithium are medications which help in the treatment of bipolar disorder and resulting symptoms like fluctuating moods, headaches, or seizures. Lithium can help even out the emotional phases of bipolar disorder. This medication has characteristics that work against both mania (high) and depression (low). It helps balance brain activity and can minimize to risk of bipolar episodes.
According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, mood stabilizers need to be prescribed in conjunction with anti-depressants in order to reduce the risk of mania. “No risk of mania was seen in patients receiving an antidepressant while treated with a mood stabilizer.”
As advancement in research grows, additional treatments will be discovered, increasing the possibility for further control over bipolar disorder. While at the moment, there is no definitive cure; there is plenty of help for stabilizing the disorder. As an ongoing illness, a combination of treatment and different medications are needed to balance symptoms.
Psychotherapy and Bipolar Disorder
Psychotherapy, alongside medication, is an essential part of treating bipolar disorder.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can be used to treat many mental illnesses, but it may be particularly helpful in treating bipolar disorder.
It can be beneficial in addressing past trauma, alongside other mental health illnesses. Through the approach, the patient addresses negative thoughts and works to erase them and replace them with positive ones.
Through this examination, CBT can help understand what triggers depressive episodes. Tools and methods can be used to manage the onset of those thoughts, which is helpful for independent living.
A Healthy Life
While a certain medication may be working for a period of time, at any point there may be changes in effectiveness.
Never hesitate to discuss the side effects of a medication that does not seem to be working.
It is important to discuss these differences the second they occur. Sharing how you feel while taking certain medications, while you try a certain therapy program or any other factors is crucial for finding the right course of action.
Treatment for all mental illnesses is a collaborative effort between you and your physician and treatment center. But by maintaining awareness and being an active participant in treating your disorder, it is possible to live a full and healthy life.