Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mental condition that causes unusual changes in mood, ranging from extreme highs (mania) to lows (depression). There is no cure, but it can be controlled with medications, psychotherapy, and other forms of treatment. Even so, there are potential long-term effects. Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging, but there are ways to help make things easier for you, a friend, or a loved one.
Long-term ongoing treatment can help people control their symptoms and allow them to lead a healthy life. When people with bipolar disorder experience four or more manic or depressive episodes in a year, this is called a “rapid cycle.” Bipolar disorder is usually diagnosed in the teens or early 20s. Knowing the nature of these brain changes helps doctors better understand bipolar disorder and, in the future, can help predict what types of treatment will work best for a person with bipolar disorder. Antidepressants are never used as the only medication to treat bipolar disorder because only taking an antidepressant medication can cause a manic episode.
Keeping a careful medical history is essential to ensure that bipolar disorder is not confused with major depression. People with bipolar disorder who have psychotic symptoms may be misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia. Learning more about the function of genes in bipolar disorder may help researchers develop new treatments. For example, the antidepressants prescribed by healthcare providers to treat obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and the stimulants they prescribe to treat ADHD can worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder and even cause a manic episode.
Psychotherapy can offer support, education, skills, and strategies to people with bipolar disorder and their families. Some studies of identical twins have found that even when one twin develops bipolar disorder, the other may not.