Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a psychiatric condition characterised by extreme mood swings between mania (feeling unusually happy, more energetic and active) and depression (feeling very sad and down). These are not the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through. These mood swings are more extreme such that they can affect social and occupational functioning. It affects about 1.2% of people in Singapore. Both males and females are affected equally and the age of onset is usually between 15 to 25 years old.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder involve unusual mood changes, along with alterations in sleep, behaviour, thinking and activity levels. These symptoms can last a week or longer.
During a manic episode, people will experience a very elevated mood associated with:
During a depressive episode, they will feel very sad or down, associated with:
Bipolar disorder cannot be prevented. However, the mood swings can be managed by being regular with medications, as well as taking steps to prevent a relapse. It is important to stop using alcohol or recreational drugs, get sufficient sleep, have regular social contact, and recognize early signs of relapse.
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. Genetic factors may play a part, as bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a relative with a mood disorder.
Psychiatric evaluation is necessary to diagnose bipolar disorder. Laboratory tests may be carried out to rule out physical illnesses that may be causing bipolar disorder. This may include blood tests or brain imaging.
Treatment usually involves medications, psychotherapy or a combination of both. Mood stabilisers and antipsychotic medications are the first-line of treatment to stabilize the mood. Psychotherapy can help patients understand the disorder, improve compliance and prevent relapse.
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