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Bipolar Disorder in Men, Women, and Children- Symptoms, Causes, Types

What is Bipolar Disorder?

You may have often watched in movies or had a personal encounter of the kind wherein you have seen a person showing extreme variations in his/her behaviour. These are changes caused due to extreme shifts in mood swings, a condition prevalent in a mental illness called bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is also commonly known as manic depression. It includes episodes of depression.  These are basically emotional highs and lows that everyone suffers but in a person suffering from bipolar disorder, these episodes assume dramatic shifts thus affecting a person’s overall bodily energy.

Frequency of Occurrence of Bipolar Disorder:

The frequency of Bipolar Disorder is not fixed. It can range from one or more than one episodes per day to just one episode per year. The frequency depends upon the intensity of mental disorder, the treatment and also the intake of medicines. Some of them have just a number of episodes in their entire lifetime.

While there are studies to suggest that this disease is a genetic disease, there have been surprising incidents wherein a patient with no such history in the family has been affected with bipolar disorder. This is a rather rare mental disorder the signs of which can appear at an average age of 25 years old.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder:

There are three main symptoms of Bipolar Disorder- mania, hypomania, and depression.

Mania and Hypomania:

While experiencing mania, a person may feel an emotional high. They feel excited, impulsive, euphoric and full of energy. Mania is more severe than hypomania and has more prominent symptoms which can surface at work, social activities and within interpersonal relationships. In very serious cases, mania may trigger a break from realistic situations and may require hospitalization. During these episodes, they may also engage in activities like:

1. Excessive Spending Sprees

2. Euphoria which is exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence

3. Innumerable racing thoughts

4. Distractibility and lack of concentration

5. Unusual talkativeness

6. Unable to make prudent decisions in various situations. Like opting for excessive and uncontrollable need for shopping unwanted things, taking risks during sexual relations or making foolish investments.

Major Depressive Episode:

These are severe symptoms that interfere in normal functioning of a person in his/her day to day life. The symptoms in this category include the following:

7. Depressed mood, feeling of utter sadness, feeling of emptiness, hopelessness, irritability, cranky which includes being unable to control the urge to cry inspite of not having a definite reason of crying.

8. Loss of interest in any activities, being devoid of any feeling of pain or pleasure.

9. Loss of weight which is not due to dieting or adaptation of any kind of health regime. It may be due to loss of appetite. Especially amongst children, no sign of weight gain is an indication of depression.

10. Severe insomnia or excessive urge to sleep all day long

11. Paradoxical behaviour such as immense restlessness or very slow behaviour

12. Feeling of immense fatigue or loss of energy

13. Feeling of excessive guilt, Self criticism, worthlessness.

14. Unable to concentrate or think which affects decision making

15. Suicidal tendencies. Displaying behaviour of planning an attempt to suicide and also making actual preparations for the same.

Types of Bipolar Disorder:

Bipolar I disorder:

It is when One manic episode which follows hypomanic or major depressive episodes. This means that the episode is followed by one of the symptoms stated above. It may result in psychosis which is when the patient is carried away from the reality.

Bipolar II disorder:

It includes having one major depressive episode and one of the symptoms of hypomanic episode. There is an absence of any symptom of a manic episode.

Cyclothymic Disorder:

The patients which experience one of the hypomania episodes during childhood and the other episode or periods of depression during the teenage years falls into this category.

Other Types:

These include other disorders induced due to poor decision making power and giving into habits like drug abuse and extreme unprotected sexual activities along with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder in Men Vs Bipolar Disorder in Women:

The symptoms and the intensity of this mental disorder may vary amongst the two genders which could be due to hormonal interplay, kind of lifestyle and a lot of other relative factors of the kind.

  1. Men may be diagnosed with this disorder earlier in life than women. Women are generally diagnosed between the age of 20-30 years.
  2. Men experience far more severe manic episodes than women. While women suffer from more depressive episodes than men. Women have four or more episodes during a year which condition is termed as a rapid cycling.
  3. Men experience more problems of substance abuse. They may be more probable to get into drug addiction and such related risks than women. While women have a higher risk of becoming an alcohol addict.
  4. Women may contract diseases like thyroid, obesity, anxiety disorders and migraines.
  5. Men may act out during manic episodes

Bipolar Disorder Among Children:

The case is very different among children than those among the adults. The symptoms also vary. The children may experience noticeable episodes of happiness and depression. This disease manifests itself in the form of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The elevated mood swings are very prominent and hence easily distinguishable from normal behaviour amongst children.

Manic Symptoms in Children:

The symptoms of Manic Episode caused by Bipolar disorder can include:

1. Acting silly and feeling overly happy

2. Talking quickly and on changing subjects

3. Having trouble focusing/concentrating

4. Doing risky things and engaging in risky activities

5. Displaying tantrums and sever outbursts of temper

6. Experiencing trouble sleeping

Depressive symptoms in children:

7. Acting very sad

8. Sleeping too much or loss of sleep

9. Complaining about not feeling well, feeling of headaches or stomach aches

10. Feeling or worthlessness

11. Suicidal tendencies and displaying the equivalent behaviour.

When in teens, the same kind of behaviour is displayed with a few variations like being extremely disobedient, abusing substance, drug addictions, etc.

Treatment and Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder:

In order to diagnose this disorder, one does not follow single criteria. The diagnoses of this mental disorder is also an evaluative process which includes Physical Examinations, Evaluation of Mental Health by psychologists, maintenance of a Mood Journal which keeps a record of various mood swings, frequency of occurrence and the intensity of the same and finally following the Diagnostic Criteria which is a manual of disorders that the doctors can use for diagnosis.

Treatment of Bipolar disorder may include taking medications for the mental health as well as the associated other diseases that the person falls a prey to due to experience of various symptoms stated above.

Only the sufferer can best understand what happens to him/her during the episodes of attacks. Mental illnesses are like any other bodily illness. It has to be treated with some level of empathy and patience. Those related to the patients play a very crucial role in this regard. The patients need to be understood and dealt with love and affection instead of being treated as an outcast. Though this disorder subsists for a lifetime, the effects of it can be reduced considerably.

Shabnam Vandeliwala

Venturing into writing is my second most admired hobby after litigating in courts. An advocate by profession, writing gives me immense sense of satisfaction especially in the time that I'm free from other work.

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