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What is bipolar disorder? Some warning signs to look out for

Compared to men, women have milder episodes of mania. © Shutterstock

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, and there's no cure for it. But you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : September 21, 2020 9:43 AM IST

Bipolar disorder, also known as bipolar disease or manic depression, is a mental illness that is marked by extreme shifts in mood. It causes extremely elevated mood called mania or hypomania (less extreme than mania), and episodes of depression. People with bipolar disorder may experience emotional highs and lows for several days or weeks. These episodes of mood swings may occur rarely or multiple times a year.

People who are struggling with this mental condition may have trouble managing their everyday life tasks as well as maintaining their relationships. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, and there's no cure for it. But you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan. Generally, it is treated with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy).

Watch out for the warning signs

Depression caused by bipolar disorder may make you feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed. One may also experience suicidal thoughts during an episode of depression. When you're emotionally high, you may feel euphoric, excited, impulsive, and full of energy. People with bipolar disorder may engage in spending sprees, unprotected sex, and drug use during manic episodes.

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Men and women may experience different symptoms of the disorder. In most cases, the condition is diagnosed earlier in men than in women. Compared to men, women have milder episodes of mania. Women with bipolar disorder may also relapse more often, probably because of hormonal changes related to menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. But men with bipolar disorder are less likely than women to seek medical care on their own and they're also more likely to die by suicide.

Causes of bipolar disorder

While it's not yet clear why some people develop bipolar disorder and not others, researchers believe that genetics, abnormalities in the brain structure, and certain environmental factors like extreme stress, traumatic experiences, and physical illness may increase the risk.

Research has indicated a strong genetic link in people with bipolar disorder. That means if you have a relative with the disorder, you're more likely to develop the condition. However, not everyone with a family history of the condition will develop it.

Natural remedies for bipolar disorder

Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be managed with medications, counseling, and lifestyle changes. Some natural remedies may also help people deal with this condition. However, don't try these remedies without talking with your doctor as they could interfere with medications you're taking.

Fish oil

Fish oil and fish are common sources of omega-3 fatty acids that may affect the chemicals in your brain associated with mood disorders. Depressed also tend to have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. These fatty acids may help reduce irritability and aggression, reduce depression symptoms as well as improve brain function.

Rhodiola rosea

Some studies suggest that Rhodiola rosea (arctic root or golden root) may help treat mild to moderate depression. But this herb is a mild stimulant and may cause side effects like insomnia, vivid dreaming, and nausea. It may bind with estrogen receptors and increase your risk of breast cancer.

S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)

It is an amino acid supplement that has been shown to help ease symptoms of major depression and other mood disorders. But wrong dosages of these supplements can cause serious side effects like triggering manic episodes. So, always talk with your doctor about proper dosages.

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