Bipolar disorder is a very serious psychological disease that causes a person to swing from extended periods of major depression to short bursts of mania. It is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain that are often the result of genetic patterns, substance abuse or intense emotional trauma.
Those affected by bipolar disorder struggle with social pressures, relationships, finances, self-destructive tendencies and physical health until they receive treatment.
While there is technically no known “cure” for bipolar disorder, there are many different treatments that can help sufferers manage their symptoms effectively. The sooner people with bipolar disorder are diagnosed and treated, the better their prognosis is for functional recovery.
Recognizing Bipolar Disorder Early
Bipolar disorder tends to first appear in the late teens or early twenties. Because affected individuals tend to have symptoms that change frequently, it can be difficult for them to see the bipolar patterns in their own behavior. It is often friends or loved ones who recognize the following symptoms of bipolar mania and depression:
- Depression: Emotional numbness, persistent sadness, frequent crying, anger management problems and loss of interest in previous valuable activities
- Mania: Irrational exuberance, reckless behavior, impulsivity, aggression, lack of rest and rage
Bipolar individuals are especially vulnerable as they tend to think they do not need help while experiencing the manic stage and tend to feel that victory over depression is impossible or hopeless during their depressed times. It often falls to loved ones to gently force them to realize that they need help.
In some cases, this may require a professionally guided intervention as many people are unable to comprehend their condition without being forced to.
Consequences of Untreated Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder tends to be a progressive disease that gets worse over time. The highs become more dangerous, and the lows become more desperate. If left untreated, bipolar individuals can cause great harm to themselves or others in the following ways:
- Emotional abuse can affect loved ones.
- Irresponsible choices can cause financial harm to spouses and children.
- Some manic individuals physically abuse those around them.
- As the disease progresses, the affected individual tends to destroy his or her most important relationships.
- Major depression can cause suicidal thoughts or actions.
- Substance abuse and corresponding addiction is an extremely common result of self-medicating bipolar symptoms.
The sooner bipolar individuals have their condition identified and treated, the better their odds are of symptom management.