What is Bipolar Disorder?
Formerly known as manic–depressive illness is a mental disorder characterized by extreme mood swings. People with bipolar disorder experience alternating periods of extreme highs and lows, which can range from mania to depression. Mania is a period of elevated mood, intense energy, and racing thoughts. During this period, people may take risks, talk and think quickly, and act impulsively. Depression is a period of sadness, low energy, and feelings of worthlessness. Symptoms as mentioned may last for several weeks or months.
This is a serious mental illness that can affect daily life and well-being. It is estimated that about 2.8% of the population in the United States has this disorder. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
(1) People with bipolar disorder experience shifts in their mood, energy, and activity levels that can range from mild to severe. These shifts are known as manic and depressive episodes.
(2) Manic episodes involve periods of unusually elevated or irritable moods, often accompanied by increased energy, restlessness, and risky behavior. During a manic episode, a person may have racing thoughts, talk very quickly, and experience changes in sleeping patterns.
(3) Depressive episodes involve periods of unusually low mood, decreased energy, and decreased activity levels. During a depressive episode, a person may be tearful, have difficulty concentrating, and may feel worthless or hopeless.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Treating it usually involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and support from family and friends. Treatment plans are subject to the needs of individual cases.
Medication is the most common treatment, and it can help reduce symptoms of mania and depression. Following are the medications that can be helpful in the treatment of the said disorder: –
- Mood Stabilizers
The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide: What You and Your Family Need to Know
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is an important component of treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can help people learn how to manage their mood swings and improve their coping skills.
Lifestyle changes can also help manage bipolar disorder. People diagnosed with such a disorder should maintain a regular sleep schedule, limit their alcohol intake, and avoid drugs.
How to Deal with Such People
Dealing with someone having this disorder can be challenging. Here are some tips for how to handle a situation when someone with bipolar disorder is having a manic or depressive episode:
- Stay calm. Speak in a calm and supportive manner, and try to stay away from topics that may upset the person.
- Listen. Listen to what the person is saying and acknowledge their feelings.
- Offer support. Offer help and reassure the person that they are not alone.
- Encourage treatment. Offer to help the person access treatment if they are not already doing so.
- Take care of yourself. It can be exhausting to look after some with bipolar disorder. Make sure to take time for yourself and reach out to family and friends for support.
Research Study on Bipolar Disorder
The main treatment, lithium, was approved half a century ago, but it does not help all patients and has significant side effects. Little progress has been made in the search for better therapies, in part because scientists don’t fully understand how the condition develops or exactly how lithium improves symptoms when it works.
A genetic study involving thousands of people with bipolar disorder has revealed new insight into the molecular underpinnings of the condition.
International Research Efforts:
An international effort led by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard identifies a gene called AKAP11 as a strong risk factor for both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The findings may provide clues to how lithium works because the AKAP-11 protein is known to interact with a molecular pathway modified by the drug. While many common genetic variants with small effects have been discovered, AKAP11 is the first gene found to have a large effect on the risk of bipolar disorder.
The findings pave the way for a better understanding of the causes of the condition and potential new therapies. This result has already launched new studies of the disorder in cells and animals, focusing on molecular mechanisms that may lead to the identification of biomarkers that would match patients with treatment and develop new therapies.
Big Study Big Effect:
Bipolar disorder is a severe, inherited mood disorder that affects about 1 percent of people and often begins in early adulthood. A better understanding of the biological roots of the condition could lead to more effective therapies that can improve quality of life.
HMS and Broad scientists have worked with colleagues around the world in the Bipolar Exome Consortium to identify rare DNA sequence differences that change proteins, with the hope of discovering those that have a big impact on disease risk.
Although rare mutations occur in a minority of patients, the strong impact on disease risk means they can shed light on broader biological mechanisms.
The researchers began by comparing the exomes, or protein-coding part of the genome, of roughly 14,000 people with bipolar disorder to 14,000 healthy controls. They found that people with the condition are more likely to carry gene variants that lead to abnormally shortened, dysfunctional proteins. Some of these variants were in genes already known to be associated with the risk of schizophrenia, another serious mental illness that often begins after adolescence.
Schizophrenia Exome Sequencing Meta-analysis (SCHEMA)
The team further incorporated the results of a large study conducted by the Schizophrenia Exome Sequencing Meta-analysis (SCHEMA) consortium. They combined the exome sequences of 24,000 people with schizophrenia who participated in the SCHEMA study with those of 14,000 people with bipolar disorder and compared the sequences with those of healthy controls.
This analysis revealed rare protein-truncating variants in the AKAP11 gene that increase the risk of the disease several-fold, making it the strongest genetic risk factor yet found for bipolar disorder.
Neale is also director of genetics at the Stanley Center and co-director of the Medical and Population Genetics Program at the Broad, where he is an Institute Fellow.
The team found that the protein product of AKAP11 interacts with another protein called GSK3B, a molecular target of lithium, which is a potential mechanism of action. The discovery, therefore, offers interesting clues to the effects of lithium on the body, which may shed light on lithium’s actions and lead to the identification of additional therapeutic targets.
New Variants, New Models
To investigate the molecular and behavioral effects of the AKAP11 gene variants revealed in the study, the team is now creating cell and animal models carrying the altered form of the gene. It will be the first time scientists have used research models containing the same variants that have been found to clearly increase risk in humans.
The researchers are also investigating whether AKAP-11 or one of its molecular partners could serve as a biomarker for the condition to aid in the diagnosis or to help ensure that future clinical trials include patients most likely to benefit from a particular therapy. The team’s goal is to uncover other genetic risk factors for bipolar disorder.
Adapted from the press release of Broad Institute
Q. What lifestyle changes can help people with this disorder?
Several lifestyle changes can help people with this disorder, manage their condition. These include getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. It is also important to be aware of triggers that can cause manic or depressive episodes and develop strategies to manage them.
Q. What complications can arise from this disorder?
Bipolar disorder can cause several complications, including suicidal thoughts and behaviors, substance abuse problems, relationship problems, family conflict, financial problems, and legal issues.
Q. Is there a cure for bipolar disorder?
Yet, no cure has been found so far for the disorder. However, with proper treatment and support, people with bipolar disorder can manage their symptoms and lead productive, fulfilling lives.
Q. How can family and friends support someone with this disorder?
Family and friends of someone with the disorder can provide emotional support and understanding, help the person access treatment, offer encouragement to take medications as prescribed, and help the person develop healthy lifestyle habits.
Q. How can I find help for bipolar disorder?
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of the said disorder, it is important to seek help from a qualified mental health professional. You can find a mental health provider in your area by searching online or asking your primary care doctor for a referral. You can also contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for information and resources.
Q. What types of therapy are helpful for people with this disorder?
Therapy can be an important part of treating bipolar disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and family therapy are all forms of therapy that can be helpful for people with bipolar disorder.
Q. How long does it take to recover from a bipolar episode?
The length of time it takes to recover from a bipolar episode can vary from person to person and is dependent on the severity of the episode. In general, it can take weeks or months to recover.
Q. Are there any natural treatments for bipolar disorder?
Some natural treatments may help manage bipolar disorder. These include lifestyle changes such as getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. Some people may also find that supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, are also beneficial.
Q. Is this disorder a lifelong condition?
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, but with proper treatment and support, it is possible to manage symptoms and lead a productive, fulfilling life.
Q. What should I do if I think I have bipolar disorder?
If you think you may have bipolar disorder, it is important to seek help from a qualified mental health professional. Your doctor can help you get a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. It is also important to find a support network of family, friends, and other people with this disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that is characterized by extreme mood swings between manic and depressive episodes. Treatment for this disorder usually involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and support from family and friends. When dealing with someone who has bipolar disorder, it is important to stay calm, listen, offer support, and encourage treatment. It is also important to take care of yourself and reach out for help if needed.
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