How do I know I am bipolar?

Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Chances of a Cure

In one moment still happy, but in the next the end of the world seems near: Violent and persistent changes in emotions can indicate a bipolar disorder, which is also known as manic-depressive illness. Why it is often a long way to a diagnosis and which treatments can help against mental illness.

Definition: what does bipolar disorder mean?

Bipolar disorders develop in depressive and manic phases, which sometimes merge directly into one another, but can also be interrupted by longer symptom-free periods. During depression, those affected are depressed, listless and see no perspective.

Quite different during mania: "Then you could hug the whole world," says Professor Andreas Reif, Director of the Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy at the University Hospital in Frankfurt. They are full of energy and optimistic, hardly need any sleep. They can also get aggressive and take risks without thinking. Careless spending of money is typical in this phase. If, on the other hand, the manic episodes are rather weak, one speaks of hypomania.

People with bipolar disorder have an average of seven to eight phases in their life. The manic episodes usually last two to three months, the depressive five to six months. "In between, people are healthy," says Reif.

Frequency of occurrence: how many are affected?

According to Reif, around one percent of the population suffers from bipolar disorder - one in 100 people in Germany. That is estimated "conservatively". Many bipolar disorders went undetected for a long time. Those affected are not even aware that they have a mental illness, so they do not see a doctor or psychologist.

The consequences are grave. Because timely diagnosis and targeted treatment can significantly improve the course of the disease. In addition, bipolar disorder increases the risk of suicide by a factor of twenty compared to the general population.

Mania and Depression: Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Tomislav Majic from the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Charité in Berlin sees an important early warning signal of the disease in sleep disorders. "With depression, people often wake up early and have a morning low." In the case of mania, on the other hand, they often don't need sleep at all, but are still full of strength and zest for action. In addition, strong mood swings are a typical sign of bipolar disorder. Majic advises those affected not to ignore such signs. Rapid help is available from psychiatrists, clinics or institute outpatient departments.

What makes bipolar disorder so tricky is the fact that sufferers often fail to perceive the symptoms or misjudge them: Especially in manic phases, many are convinced that they are fine. This is why only a few manic-depressive people find their way to a doctor or psychologist. Often it is friends or family who point out the possibility of therapy to the sick person.

Test: Are You Bipolar?

How pronounced certain symptoms are can vary from person to person. Still, there are certain characteristics that indicate bipolar disorder. If you want to find out, you should watch out for manic and depressive early symptoms. If several of them occur and phases of mania alternate with depressive phases, a doctor or psychiatrist should be consulted in order to obtain a reliable diagnosis.

Possible early symptoms of mania:

  • euphoria
  • Inventiveness, increased creativity
  • excessive self-awareness
  • Flood of speech and strong need for communication
  • increased willingness to take risks
  • Difficulty concentrating and irritability
  • increased alcohol or drug use
  • increased interest in sexuality

Possible early symptoms of depression:

  • Listlessness and lack of energy
  • Feelings of fear
  • Very doubtful
  • Sadness and depression
  • internal restlessness and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating and poor performance
  • Libido problems, decreased interest in sexuality
  • sleep disorders

Causes and Risks: Is Bipolar Disorder Hereditary?

Research suggests that bipolar disorder is inheritable and can therefore be genetic. According to the German Society for Bipolar Disorders (DGBS), first-degree relatives are highly likely to inherit the disease.

In addition, people with bipolar disorder often seem to have an imbalance of brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin and adrenaline. Another factor that can trigger bipolar disorder is medication or drug abuse.

Treatment: psychotherapy and medication

According to Majic, a combination of medication and psychotherapy has proven to be effective in treating bipolar disorder - not just during one phase, but also during normal phases. This also applies to drugs whose dose is higher during treatment in one phase and then reduced accordingly.

According to the DGBS, the treatment of a manic-depressive illness is divided into three stages:

  1. During the Acute treatment mainly drugs are used. These are supposed to relieve symptoms of depression and mania.
  2. When the patient's situation has improved, it begins Maintenance therapy. Here the doctor tries above all to further stabilize the person affected. In addition to the drugs that are still essential, the first psychotherapeutic measures are also taken in this phase of treatment.
  3. In the Phase of prophylaxis patients should learn to recognize episodes of the disease. Furthermore, supported by medication and psychotherapy, the doctors accompany those affected in finding their way back into society.

According to Majic, bipolar disorders are among the "lifetime diagnoses". This means: You have a significantly higher risk of developing mania or depression again throughout your life. On the other hand, according to Majic, it is possible that, despite some manic and depressive phases, those affected will no longer fall ill for a long time.

Can I Cure Bipolar Disorder? According to the DGBS, there is still no reliable healing therapy. However, there are known cases in which the symptoms become weaker with age, do not occur at all, or only very few episodes of illness are experienced. The vast majority of those affected, however, have to face the disease for a lifetime. However, those affected can learn to cope better with the changeable mood and to control it.

Help for relatives and partners

The situation is often difficult for relatives of people with bipolar disorder, as the change between high and low phases is very stressful. The changeable, often contradicting behavior of the sick person can also throw loved ones off track. Fundamental questions arise: when to intervene, when to withdraw? Are relatives even allowed to pursue their own interests? Basically, people close to you must be prepared for the fact that the mood of bipolar people can tilt at any point in time and turn into the opposite. This is a great challenge for the family and the partner.

Unlike a few decades ago, there are now numerous offers for people who are in a relationship with mentally ill people or have a partnership with them. Support groups, seminars and a The DGBS, for example, offers advice on 0800/55 33 33 55.

In addition, the attending physician can also give helpful tips on how to behave and involve relatives in the psychotherapy. There they learn how to keep the balance between demarcation and care and how they can protect themselves. Because friends are often so busy with each other's illness that they lose sight of their own needs.

In addition, especially in a manic phase, those affected lack the insight that they are suffering from an illness, which the relatives often cushion. Friends, relatives, and partners of people with bipolar disorder need patience, attention, and composure. Only if they stay healthy can they be a support for the sick person.

Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

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  • Mania,
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