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Bipolar disorder or manic depressive disorder is a psychological disorder associated with drastic mood swings between serious depression and mania. These depressive swings are marked by sadness, hopelessness and a complete loss of interest in activities that are normally pleasurable. The manic swings are marked by euphoria and marked changes in energy. In some situations, a person suffering from bipolar disorder can experience the symptoms of both sides at the same time, feeling simultaneously depressed and manic.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications

The exact cause behind the development of bipolar disorder is as yet unknown though there are a few factors that appear to be involved triggering bipolar disorder episodes. These triggers include: biological differences in the brain, imbalances in neurotransmitters in the brain, hormone imbalances, traits inherited from blood relatives and environmental factors such as trauma, significant loss, abuse or stress.

There are some factors that can increase the risk for developing bipolar disorder. These include: having a blood relative that has bipolar disorder, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, periods of high tension or stress, major changes in life and being 20-30 years old. There are also a number of conditions which occur in conjunction with bipolar disorder, which are anxiety disorders, addiction, substance abuse, physical health issues and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

When it is left untreated, bipolar disorder is capable of resulting in a number of serious problems as it can affect every single area of ones life. These complications can include: legal problems, substance abuse problems, relationship difficulties, poor work performance, poor school performance, frequent absences, suicide, loneliness and isolation. Because these complications can be so severe, getting help from a professional is essential when suffering from bipolar disorder.

Signs, Symptoms and Tests

There are two different sides to bipolar disorder symptoms, the manic side and the depressive side. Symptoms of the manic phase include: euphoria, poor judgment, inflated self-esteem, racing thoughts, agitation, irritation, aggressive behavior, risky behavior, increased sexual drive, decreased need for sleep, distracted easily, delusions, poor academic or work performance, increased drive, unwise financial choices and increased physical activity.

The symptoms of the depressive stage of bipolar disorder include: sadness, suicidal thoughts, hopelessness, anxiety, guilt, fatigue, low appetite, increased appetite, irritability, chronic pain for no known reason, frequent absences, difficulty concentrating, poor performance and sleep issues.

When a physician suspects that a patient may have bipolar disorder, they will run a number of exams and tests in order to come to a determination. These tests may include a physical examination, laboratory tests, psychological evaluation, mood charting and comparing the results to the diagnostic criteria used for bipolar disorder according to the DSM-IV. Looking at all of the rests of these tests and examinations will play an integral role in determining the cause of any present symptoms.

Treatment, Drugs and Prevention

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but there are a number of different treatment options that a physician can employ. Bipolar disorder will require lifelong treatment even during time periods where the patient feels like they are better. These treatment options will include: medications, psychological counseling on an individual or group basis, education and lifestyle changes and the use of support groups. Medication plays an important role in preventing the highs and lows from being so drastic and may include Lithium, anticonvulsant medications, antidepressants, anti-psychotics, Symbyax and benzodiazepines.