Eddies in the mind
Bipolar disorder — resulting from a range of biological, psychological and social factors — may lead to extreme mood changes in patients over a sustained period; therapy, medication and proper lifestyle hold key to its treatment
Recently, my partner was acting quite differently than usual. He began to work all night, citing he doesn't need to sleep, that he will be starting a new bigger venture that is the biggest in the world due to his alleged contacts with the higher ups in the government (which isn't true). He also began to be hyper-religious and invested money quite recklessly. He is now diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder by a psychiatrist. I am concerned, what can I do to help him?
Bipolar affective disorder is a mood disorder. In this mental health disorder, there can be an extreme range of mood swings over a sustained period. Earlier it was called manic-depressive illness (MDI) but this term is redundant now. March 30 each year is chosen to raise awareness among the people about what bipolar condition is, and how one can take care of those suffering from the disorder. It marks the birth of Vincent Van Gogh, who was a famous painter, and battled bipolar disorder himself.
Bipolar disorder or bipolar affective disorder (BPAD) varies in severity, with mild cases appearing ordinary for many years. Symptoms vary from each person. A person may predominantly present with depression or mania/hypomania. In between episodes, the affected person is likely to be quite well and able to function properly.
According to NAMI, roughly about 2.8 per cent (estimated seven million) people suffer from bipolar disorder.
No definite cause is noted. There can be a combination of biological (neurochemical changes in dopamine, family history, drug abuse history, certain metabolic conditions etc.); psychological (personality, coping, trauma etc.) and social (stressor, death of a loved one, loss, major life events) causes.
Mania/ hypomania: Three or more of these symptoms over a minimum of one week.
⁕ Mood that is elated, abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired
⁕ Excessive and increased activity, energy or agitation
⁕ Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
⁕ Decreased need for sleep
⁕ Unusual talkativeness and difficult to interrupt. May get offended and pick up a fight if stopped and confronted
⁕ Racing thoughts from topic to topic
⁕ Distractibility, unable to finish tasks and conversations
⁕ Poor decision-making — for example, going on buying spree, taking sexual risks or making foolish investments.
Depression: A low phase, where there can be the following symptoms over a month.
⁕ Low mood, lack of energy, lack of interest and feeling no pleasure in all — or almost all — activities
⁕ Weight and appetite changes.
⁕ Either insomnia or sleeping too much
⁕ Either restlessness or slowed behaviour along with mental fatigue
⁕ Fatigue or loss of physical energy
⁕ Feelings of worthlessness and excessive or inappropriate guilt
⁕ Decreased ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
⁕ Thinking about, planning or attempting suicide
Psychosis with depressive or manic phase: Losing touch with reality. The symptoms of psychosis can range from paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. These can be grand thoughts and ideas.
How is bipolar disorder diagnosed? A mental health professional (psychiatrist) establishes a diagnosis by a long interview with the patient and preferably their family. A few blood tests are run to rule out metabolic causes.
A new blood test has shown promising results in exploring the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This can act as an add-on for diagnosis in the near future.
What can you do to support your partner?
⁕ Knowledge: Be aware, read up, and stay abreast about information. Ask your doctor for the right sources of information.
⁕ Avoid name calling: Labels like "you are such a bipolar", even if used in a fit of rage can really trigger your partner
⁕ Medications: Ensure your partner stays on top of their medication. Avoid pill shaming. If possible, go to the doctor with them.
⁕ Therapy: Again a great place to learn more skills to support your partner and for your partner to support themselves. Go together for a few sessions.
⁕ Lifestyle: Ensure that sleep gets a major priority. Refrain from indulging in substance (drugs, alcohol) abuse with your partner. Focus on wellness.
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