Mood swings are OK, but when they reach extremes, know that it is time to seek help. Bipolar disorder is a very real problem
How often have you seen a friend have mood swings so bad that she can’t seem to control her emotions or reactions to basic life situations? The most trivial and sometimes mundane things excite her so much that she seems almost hysterical or end up upsetting her to such an extent that she seems depressive? Instead of blaming it on the hormones or laughing it off, it’s time you ensured your friend sought help. If her mood swings are so extreme then she could probably be suffering from Bipolar Disorder, a condition in which a patient goes back and forth between periods of ecstacy and depression. The swing between mania and depression can be very quick.
“Bipolar disorder is two poles of an illness. While it is not as common as depression, the incidence of bipolar illness stands at around 5 to 7 per cent in our country,” says Dr Roshan Jain, senior consultant psychiatrist at Apollo Hospital, Banaglore. “Patients experience swings in moods that are often beyond a point of relevance. For instance, they’ll be so happy for the smallest things even if it doesn’t warrant it. And when they hit a low, it could last persistently for two weeks or more.”
“The sad thing about bipolar disorder is that what patients are experiencing are both normal reactions. But they experience it in such extremes that they can’t handle it. Often even with treatment, there are high chances of relapses and the ailment can sometimes last a lifetime,” says Dr MS Reddy, a Hyderabad-based psychiatrist who runs Asha Bipolar Clinic.
“Patients with bipolar disorder will often find themselves doing things that they regret later, become more promiscuous and generally do things more than what is normally required. They are prone to irritability and have anger management problems. I often have patients come to me saying that they can’t contain their emotions,” says Dr Jain.
Dr Reddy explains that patients may display signs of being hyperactive and over confident and the very next minute seem depress-ed and dull. The problem affects both men and women, usually between the ages of 15 and 25.
“A structured interview is the best way of determining whether a person is suffering from bipolar disorder, but you also need to rule out other medical conditions like endocrinal problems, drugs abuse, a brain condition like a tumour, epilepsy etc,” says Dr Jain.
If a patient is diagnosed with bipolar disorder then experts prescribe mood-stabilising medication to help calm them down. “In case of mania we prescribe anti-psychotics and for depression there are anti-depressants. These medications are however to handle immediate problems. The mood stabilising medications are meant to manage future episodes. Patients should also avoid stressors or causative factors to avoid triggering episodes,” explains Dr Reddy.
Talk therapy also helps patients with bipolar disorder. “Psychotherapy is often used to help patients by offering them support, care, advice and guidance on the living with the illness. It is used to help them recognise and identify and stressors and steer clear of it. With appropriate care, medication and therapy patients can recover,” says Dr Jain.