How to recognise bipolar affective disorder

How to recognise bipolar affective disorder

Bipolar affective disorder (BAD), formerly known as manic-depressive illness or manic depression, is a mental illness characterised by cyclical mood changes. These include periods of depression, periods of mania or hypomania, or periods of calm. Recognising this disorder can be crucial to initiating appropriate treatment and provision for those affected.

Depressive phase

One of the main characteristics of bipolar affective disorder is a period of depression. People with BAD may experience sad or hopeless feelings, loss of interest or joy, insomnia or excessive sleep, fatigue, and decreased ability to concentrate. These individuals may also have thoughts of death or suicide.

Manic phase

During the manic phase, excessive euphoria, excessive activity, rapid flow of thoughts, decreased need for sleep, impulsive behaviour, and increased energy levels may occur. These people may overestimate their abilities and take risky actions without sufficient consideration of the consequences.

Hypomanic phase

Hypomania is a milder form of mania where similar symptoms are present but are less intense and do not lead to significant social or occupational difficulties. The hypomanic phase can be challenging to recognise because individuals in this phase often still behave pretty normally, and you won't notice mood or behavioural swings in them.

Cyclical course

One of the hallmarks of bipolar affective disorder is the cyclical nature of the symptoms. People with this disorder go through periods of depression, hypomania or mania, followed by periods of relative stability. These cycles can be short-lived (usually a week) but can last for months or years.

Diagnosis and treatment

The diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder requires a detailed psychiatric evaluation, including a general physical examination. Confirmation then requires two independent and separable episodes. Subsequent treatment involves a combination of pharmacotherapy (drug treatment) and psychotherapy. Mood stabilisers and antipsychotics are often prescribed to control mood states. More severe cases of the manic phase may require hospitalisation.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have bipolar affective disorder, consult a mental health professional for further evaluation and possible help. At our clinic, we provide consultations and long-term counselling.