Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
Patients who suffer from Bipolar Disorder go through different phases of the illness:
The manic phase is the "high" of Bipolar Disorder. It is when the person suffering from Bipolar Disorder is full of energy, in excessively high spirits, has a "million thoughts" at the same time and experiences feelings of increased self-esteem, as well as experiencing an impaired sense of judgment and losing their grip on reality.
The depressive phase is the low of Bipolar Disorder. It is when the person suffering from Bipolar Disorder experiences persistent and excessive feelings of sadness, hopelessness, is constantly lethargic and, in extreme situations, contemplates or attempts suicide.
There are certain environmental or psychological factors that can trigger episodes of mania or depression, or make them worse. Excessive stress, substance abuse such as alcohol and recreational drugs, sleep deprivation, certain types of medication, including antidepressants can trigger episodes of mania.
Proper treatment helps most people with bipolar disorder gain better control of their mood swings and related symptoms. Because bipolar disorder is a lifelong and recurrent illness, people with the disorder need long-term treatment to maintain control of bipolar symptoms. An effective maintenance treatment plan includes medication and psychotherapy for preventing relapse and reducing symptom severity.
Mood stabilizing drugs are the mainstay for patients with bipolar disorder. They are defined as drugs that are effective for acute episodes of mania and depression and that can be used for maintenance. The standard first-line mood stabilizers are lithium and valproate. Both drugs stimulate the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate, although they appear to work through different mechanisms. Other drugs such as atypical antipsychotics may also be used.
Antidepressant medications are sometimes used to treat symptoms of depression in bipolar disorder. They are often used in conjunction with a mood stabiliser. Doctors usually require this because taking only an antidepressant can increase a person's risk of switching to mania or hypomania, or of developing rapid cycling symptoms.
Psychotherapy, or "talk" therapy, can be an effective in the management of bipolar disorder. It can provide support, education, and guidance to people with bipolar disorder and their families. Some psychotherapy treatments used to treat bipolar disorder include:
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Department of Psychological Medicine provides comprehensive assessment and management for Bipolar disorder. We have a dedicated multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists and psychologists that can provide assessment and treatment for you and your loved ones’ psychological and emotional distress.
It is never too late to seek help. If you would like to obtain an assessment, please obtain a referral from your doctor or call 65558828 for an appointment.