Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a mental health disorder that causes dramatic shifts in mood from extreme lows to extreme highs. While there is no way to prevent bipolar disorder, there are ways to prepare for and prevent the severity of these manic and depressive episodes.
Risk Factors for Bipolar Disorder
One way to help prevent bipolar disorder is to understand what causes bipolar disorder. While there is no single cause of bipolar disorder, most experts agree that there are several risk factors that act together to produce bipolar disorder or increase the risk for getting it. Here are four common risk factors for bipolar disorder:
Bipolar disorder tends to run in families. Children who have a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder are four to six times more likely to develop the disorder compared with children who do not have a family history of bipolar disorder. But just because a family member is bipolar, does not mean that you will be too. Most children with a family history of bipolar disorder will not develop the illness, and scientists are still researching the role genes play in bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder affects both men and women equally, but there is a higher incidence of rapid cycling, mixed states and cyclothymia in women. Early-onset bipolar disorder and severe bipolar disorder, however, tend to occur more frequently in men.
Bipolar disorder usually occurs between the ages of 15 to 30. However, bipolar disorder can affect people of all ages, including children.
Brain Structure and Functioning
Brain-imaging studies show that the brains of people with bipolar disorder may differ from the brains of healthy people or people with other mental disorders. This suggests that there is a common pattern of brain development that may be linked to certain mental disorders or for a general risk for unstable moods.
Patients with bipolar disorder often have another disorder that’s diagnosed before or after their diagnosis of bipolar disorder. These co-occurring disorders include anxiety disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia or generalized anxiety disorder); attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and substance abuse or addiction. While substance abuse doesn’t cause bipolar disorder, it can worsen the severity of the illness by interfering with recovery.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
The best way to prevent the severity of bipolar disorder is to undergo treatment. There are a variety of effective treatment options available for bipolar disorder, including medication, psychotherapy and holistic therapies.
The most popular forms of bipolar medication are Mood Stabilizers (such as Lithium, Depakote, Lamictal, Topamax, etc.), Atypical Antipsychotic Medications (such as Zyprexa, Abilify, Seroquel, Risperdal, etc.), and Antidepressants (such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, etc.).
In addition to medication, psychotherapy — or “talk” therapy — can be very effective at preventing bipolar disorder episodes. Some psychotherapy treatments used in bipolar treatment are cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, and psycho-education.
Some people have found success at preventing bipolar disorder symptoms with holistic treatments like herbal supplements. There is little research about the effects of herbal supplements on bipolar disorder, yet some people report experiencing marginal relief by taking the herb St. John’s wort and increasing their intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which is most commonly found in fish oil. It is very important, however, to talk with a doctor before taking any herbal or natural supplements because there is a serious risk of interactions with other medications.
If you or someone you love has bipolar disorder, it’s important to seek help right away. You don’t have to suffer in shame and silence. Many people have successfully prevented the severity of their bipolar disorder by understanding their illness and receiving treatment.