What is bipolar disorder? Bipolar disorder is a mental situation. An individual experiences mood swings like being highly energetic at a time and at an intense depression. Bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depression, is a serious mental illness. It causes a person to have dramatic shifts in emotions, mood, and energy levels: moving from extreme lows to extreme highs. But these shifts don’t happen moment to moment, they usually happen over several days or weeks.
- Mostly idiopathic.
- There is no single “bipolar gene” identified, but genetic and environmental factors play a part.
- For example, one interesting clue is that people with family members who have bipolar disorder are 10 times more likely to have it themselves.
- Another clue is that some drugs and medications can trigger manic episodes, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs). It’s also worth mentioning that people with bipolar disorder often have other disorders like anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, ADHD. And personality disorders as well, making diagnosis and treatment a real challenge.
There are a few different types, but there are some common symptoms bipolar disorder shows.
- First, the low moods are identical to those in a related disorder – major depressive disorder, also known as unipolar depression.
- Individuals with this can feel hopeless and discouraged, lack energy and mental focus. They may ay an have physical symptoms like eating and sleeping too much or too little.
- Individuals can have periods of high moods ,manic episodes or hypomanic episodes, depending on their level of severity. In a manic state, people can feel energetic, overly happy or optimistic, even euphoric with really high self-esteem.
- When an individual is in a full manic episode, these symptoms can reach a dangerous extreme. A person experiencing mania might invest all of their money in a risky business venture or behave recklessly. Individuals might talk pressured speech, where they talk constantly at a rapid-fire pace. They might have racing thoughts and might feel ‘wired,’ as if they don’t need sleep.
- Manic episodes can also include delusions of grandeur. For example they might believe that they are on a personal mission from God, or that they have supernatural power. And they might make poor decisions without any regard for later consequences.
- One way to understand these swings is by charting them on a graph. So let’s say y-axis is mood, with mania and depression being on the far ends of the axis, and the x-axis is time.
The average healthy individual might have normal ups and downs throughout their life, and they might even have some pretty serious lows once-in-awhile, maybe after losing a job or moving to a new place and feeling lonely. An individual with unipolar depression though might have normal highs, but they might have some crushing lows that last for a long period of time and may not have an obvious trigger.
- Bipolar 1 -These are people that have some major lows that last at least 2 weeks, and some major highs that last at least a week or require hospitalization. That said, untreated manic episodes can last as long as 3-6 months. Depression is seen in most cases, but doesnt requires for a diagnosis.
- Bipolar-2– when a person experiences similar lows, and has additional highs called “hypomania”, which are less severe manic episodes than we see in Bipolar 1. To qualify for a diagnosis, these hypomanic states need to last at least four days. Once again though, these symptoms generally last a few weeks to a few months.
- Cyclothymia/Cyclothymic disorder- Individuals have milder lows as well as the milder highs or “hypomania” like you see in Bipolar-2, and they cycle back and forth between these two over a period lasting at least 2 years. Sometimes, people with bipolar disorder can show other, less common symptoms as well . For example having what are referred to as mixed episodes—experiencing symptoms of both depression and mania at the same time.
Even though there’s no cure for bipolar disorder, identifying and treating individuals is really important, since there’s a real danger that the person could harm themselves or commit suicide. One of the oldest treatments is also one of the most effective treatments, and that’s lithium salts. Lithium acts as a mood stabilizer—smoothing out the highs and lows they experience. That said, it is much better at treating manic rather than depressive episodes, and so individuals who take it often have to take other medications as well, which can be problematic since some antidepressants (like the SSRIs) can trigger manic episodes in individuals who are predisposed to them.
Other treatment options include antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, and benzodiazepines, but many of these—including lithium—have side effects that can be severe and lead to non-adherence which can be dangerous for an individual. Now, unlike certain disorders like unipolar depression, psychological interventions, like talk therapy, or cognitive-behavioral therapy are not particularly effective in treating the manic episodes of bipolar disorder. Having said that, they can still be very helpful tools to help individuals with bipolar disorder in general—especially after a manic episode has ended. They can also help an individual handle stressful situations that might otherwise lead to a manic episode, thereby helping to prevent a potential manic episode in the first place.
In the management of bipolar disorders, Ayurveda aims to increase our Ojas and reducing our stressors. To deal with bipolar disorder is to identify and minimize stressors that trigger changes in the mood states
The main tools used to manage the mind are diet and herbs. On a physical level, prana and the senses working at a more subtle level. And mantra and meditation working more at the level of the mind itself.
- Food including whole grains, cooked vegetables, mung beans, meats, fresh dairy, nuts and oils. These helps build up ojas. Avoid Canned, frozen, old, processed, microwaved and rancid foods.
- Use of herbal medicines like ashwagandha, Brahmi, Shatavari, Ginseng, Shanka Pushpi, Nutmeg, Kappikacchu, Haritaki And Bhringaraj, Jyotishmati, Ginkgo, Jatamamsi, ,
- Panchakarma therapy include, Snehan, Swedan,Vamana, Shirodhara (flowing oil on the forehead) and shirobasti (oil in a crown on the head) play a role for their direct action on the brain, mind and subtle energy fields.
- Yogic exercise like Meditation, pranayama, Trataka, are also of great importance in managing bipolar disorder.
- Combined with meditation and other yogic practices
- Ayurveda works on the subtle aspects of mind to heal consciousness and release individuals from disease.