Mood swings are a common thing these days. It is seen in men and women alike, and teenagers seem to be most affected by mood swings in India. However, by themselves, they aren’t much of an issue. But when mood swings get the better of you and you start acting like a maniac, then it is called bipolar disorder, which can make life hell.

Mood swings can happen for many reasons. It is quite well known that women experience mood swings as a part of PMS and in or after pregnancy. In men, this can come from various kinds of sicknesses  —  physical or mental. But they are generally not severe and can be controlled with some self-discipline. But a person with bipolar disorder has very little control over themselves when an episode hits. This is quite a common mental health issue in India.

What Exactly is Bipolar Disorder?

Perhaps you will get a hint from its old name: “manic depression”  —  which indicates the mind swinging between periods of mania and depression. In this mental sickness, a person goes through periods of depression, hyperactivity, and normal life alternatingly. One day, they would be perfectly normal, working through life as it is. Another day, they will be in such a dark, sad mood that they will find it hard to even get out of bed. Again the very next day you may find them very hyper, full of serious enthusiasm, bursting with life, making conclusions and decisions out of thin air.

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A bipolar person does not know when one of these periods of specific mood will hit. Fortunately, these episodes last for a limited time and in less serious cases, the patient is able to control themselves to some level. But still, life remains unpredictable for them.

As if this unpredictability wasn’t enough, the manic and depressive episodes bring their own dangers. In the manic, hyperactive state, a bipolar person makes snap decisions, jumps to conclusions, may hallucinate, and is very touchy. The things they do in such a state, they often regret afterward. And in the depressive state, they can be exactly the opposite  —  unable to make a decision, unable to figure out anything  —  unable to even make a cup of tea, even.

How to Recognize Bipolar Disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder (or manic depression) are fairly simple and easily spotted, fortunately. A person with this problem goes through strong mood swings frequently, and routinely. Though it may be less detectable in less serious cases and people may pass it off as  “just a phase they’re going through.”

In more troublesome cases, when a manic episode hits, the patient may lose the sense of what is real and what isn’t. They may get psychotic attacks including periods of delusion and even hallucination. They will be extremely energetic and hyperactive, and actively take part in everything that happens around them. These periods may last from 4 days to one week or more and in this time they won’t need to sleep much.

These manic phases are sandwiched between periods of major depression or supposed normal life. These periods are generally much longer than the manic phases. In a “normal” phase, you can get what is called “hypomania”, meaning slightly manic behavior but not problematic, which may even be good for introverted people. Generally, depressive episodes last longer than manic or hypomanic episodes, and neutral phases last even longer.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Different Phases

Symptoms of a Manic Episode

+ Lasts for at least one week
+ Very upbeat, very happy or extremely irritable, jumpy
+ Has a lot of energy throughout the day
+ Doesn’t need to sleep much
+ Talks very fast and talks too much
+ Great work potential and multitasking capability
+ Risky behavior like reckless driving or shopping spree
+ Strong concentration; gets distracted with a jerk
+ Gaps in memory  —  after the episode, they may not remember everything they did in this phase

Symptoms of a Hypomanic Episode

+ Lasts about 4 days
+ Similar symptoms as above, but less strong and maybe not all of them

Symptoms of a Depressive Episode

+ Lasts at least two weeks
+ Strong, crippling sadness or hopelessness
+ Feeling guilty 
+ Feeling worthless
+ Physically less active, gets tired easily
+ Abnormal sleep, doesn’t follow routine
+ Either always hungry or disgusted of food
+ Restless behavior (like pacing around, not able sit or stand still, not able to concentrate on things)
+ Alternatively, inert behavior (lack of any activity or movement for long times)
+ Talking, walking, and doing everything slower than usual
+ Thoughts and dreams revolve around death
+ Suicidal tendenciesShort Description

* * *

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Can children get Bipolar Disorder?

Yes, they can. Although due to raging hormones mood swings are common among children, especially teenagers, but, in some cases, it can be more than just hormonal mood swings. Though that is hard to tell  —  ups and downs in your child’s mood can be due to natural hormonal changes (yes, even in boys), can be reactions to something that hurt them emotionally, or can be bipolar disorder. It is hard to be sure.

In children, the episodes of bipolar disorder are not as routine and fixed as in adults. Their mood can change rapidly within an episode, and the duration of the periods aren’t fixed either. Since rapid mood swings happen normally in children, that can overlap with bipolarism, making things even more difficult to figure out.

However, do keep an eye on the type of mood swings happening in your child. If it looks like they are having more frequent mood swings, or stronger, then maybe it is better to talk to a licensed medical professional.

A bipolar person does not know when one of these periods of specific mood will hit.

Types of Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar I Disorder

This is the most common type of Bipolar disorder, having at least one manic episode, depressive episode, and neutral moods at other times. This generally doesn’t cause much damage other than what can happen if you feel you’re on top of the world. They are often seen talking fast in their manic or hypomanic episodes.

Bipolar II Disorder

More severe than the previous type, Bipolar II brings more dangerous manic episodes with it, and stronger depression at other times. These are more a danger to themselves, and often get other mental issues such as anxiety disorder, and are prone to substance abuse to calm their nerves. During their manic episodes, they may even suffer from persecution mania (imagining that everyone is trying to hurt you). They are, consequently, harder to treat. 

Cyclothymic Disorder

This is the mildest form of bipolarism and it is debated if it can be called a real disorder than not, since it doesn’t normally cause any problems. In this issue, a person experiences light hypomanic episodes often, punctuated by “down times” that may or may not be actual depression. 

They are the lot who go through constant emotional roller-coaster rides throughout their lives, but never really going anywhere extreme enough to cause departure from reality or reason. If you’ve had at least two years of such consistent mood swings, then you may be diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder.

Why do Bipolar Disorders Happen

Sadly enough, about bipolar disorder, in most cases, the problem is not your life as most mental health issues. About 90% of bipolar disorders are genetic and run in the family in various strengths. If you had known your father or mother to behave erratically with strong mood swings, chances are high that you will too. Perhaps you already do so, without knowing it. People with genetic depression can also pass on the gene to their children as bipolar disorder.

The rest of the 10% of bipolar patients have causes other than that. Severe stress at work or life, or drug usage can also bring out symptoms of bipolar disorder. It may be those issues were already sleeping within you and external events woke them up  —  or they may have directly caused those issues. At least, the depression part can happen easily enough. But only a much stronger shock or stressful life can lead to manic episodes.

Sex and Bipolar Disorder

Maintaining a healthy sex life while suffering from bipolar disorder can be a huge challenge. Because the moods swing so violently, the sex drive or libido also swings between hypersexuality and asexuality. And yes, this can crack relationships easily  —  most spouses are not happy partnering with a person completely unpredictable in bed.

Note that in Bipolar I and Cyclothymic disorders, in the neutral periods the bipolar person can have a normal, fulfilling, morally strong sex life without many issues. If they are on medication, that may have some side effects like lack of sexual urges, though.

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Hypersexuality in Manic Episodes

If you have bipolar disorder, chances are high that your loins will be very hungry during your manic episodes. You will not have much regard for sexual ethics either  —  it wouldn’t matter who you do it with, as long as you get to do it. Spouses need to understand this part about living with a bipolar person  —  they may not have control over their sexual appetite like normal people. They will be prone to commit to a random sexual situation without thinking.

In and itself, it isn’t much of a problem in a free society. After all, sex is supposed to be a good thing. However, in rigid societies like in India, this unrestrained sexual behavior can and will lead to huge problems, because in manic episodes you get very poor judgment and you become very prone to taking unnecessary risks. Furthermore, the patient may get prone to sexual perversions like being naked in public, or painful sex, in these times.

With people who don’t have partners, extreme masturbating with or without porn addiction for the period is common. There can also be tendencies of immoral sexual behavior over the internet for this time, like publicly sharing nude selfies and anonymous sex chats.

Negative Sexuality in Depressive Episodes

This may not sound like a big issue, but lack of sex and sexual fulfilment can be just as much damaging as frivolous or dangerous sex. During their depressive episodes, the bipolar persons get very down-hearted about anything physical including sex. They will even be less romantic. 

This is, of course, very hard for the romantic and/or sexual partner and can easily lead to a breakup  —  pushing further depression upon the patient. This is why partners of bipolar persons need to be very understanding and caring. And if you are bipolar, for the sake of your relationship, tell everything about your problem to your partner, otherwise they may misunderstand horribly.

Even if a bipolar person is willing to have sex in a depressive episode, they may not be able to  —  especially men due to the, er, unique mechanical design in males. Depression is often accompanied with guilt about sex, lack of libido, erectile dysfunction, and being simply exhausted due to lack of sleep.

For women, even if they try, it may lead to complete lack of physical feelings (let alone orgasm). They may actually hate the sensation, feeling dirty, corrupt, guilty, ugly, low, or unworthy of her partner.

Spouses need to understand that a person with bipolar disorder may not have any control over their sexual hunger when in a manic phase.

Unpredictable Sexuality with Bipolar Disorder

Surprisingly enough, in very few cases, sometimes hypersexuality occurs in the depressive state and the opposite in the manic phase. The reason for this can be that the person is conscious about how their behavior is affecting their spouses, and so they unconsciously (or consciously) tend to overcorrect it. 

There are some cases where the person, especially males, feels so guilty about their uncontrollable sexual desire that they go so far as to physically restrain and even damage their sex organs. Some bind themselves or punish themselves for “bad” behavior. However, that may be a part of perversion  —  hard to tell, even for the person him/herself. She or he may just be naturally masochistic

However, if these behaviors come only periodically in the patient, then you can be pretty certain that these are parts of their bipolar disorder and not natural.

Can Bipolar Disorders be Fixed

Due to their complexity, bipolar disorders can be harder to treat than simple depression or mania. Since it is a mix of two opposite kinds of human nature, both have to be provided for, which makes it difficult. However, modern medicine and therapeutic methods have come a long way and yes, now we can treat bipolar disorders with a good chance of increasing success.

Unlike most mental health issues, bipolar disorders are not much changed by psychological counselling, not at first. That is because it is more of an issue of the nerves than an issue of the mind, medicines work much better in this case than words. 

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Treatment with Medicines

As this mental health issue is all about uncontrollable mood swings, the medicines that are used to fix this are focused on reducing the swinging thought processes. The most prominent drug used to treat bipolar disorder in India is Lithium. It is also used to prevent suicidal tendencies.

Lithium or similar drugs cast a kind of “blanket” over the rapidly stirring moods, steadying them and flattening the curves, so to speak. It works directly on the nervous system, keeping you in the center. However, do note that doctors don’t yet know very much about lithium and how exactly it works, so this treatment is mostly based upon the “it is known to work” kind of data  —  which may not be suitable for all cases. So, other drugs may need to be tested as well  —  making medication for bipolar disorder a long and tiring process.

But the first step about curing bipolar disorder is acceptance and remembering the acceptance. Since the manic episodes can easily detach you from reality, you can forget that you are sick and the decisions you are making at that time are not reliable. In these violently swinging moods, knowing your sickness, remembering your commitment to controlling yourself, and not trusting your emotions are key to curing bipolar disorder. Medicines can only help you so far.

Medicines can help you only so far – the first step in curing bipolar disorder is acceptance.

Treatment with ECT

Sometimes, though, in some cases, neither drugs nor therapy seems to make much of a dent in a person’s disturbed mind. In that case, doctors can suggest a rather scary treatment  —  the ElectroConvulsive Therapy (ECT). It works on the theory that short electrical shocks directly passing through the brain can realign or smoothen a person’s neural pathways (the links between nerve cells). It’s much like shaking a bowl to flatten out the contents.

In ECT, the patient lies unconscious on the table or couch, and doctors attach electrodes on either side of the head. Then, they apply mild electric shocks (very controlled and calculated) to the brain. This makes the patient get into a small seizure which the doctor handles efficiently. If everything works according to plan, this procedure works brilliantly, straightening out the patient for a long time.

Bipolar disorder can make life hell. Going through constant emotional roller coasters, knowing that you will lose control every so often – these are not easy. Deep support from relatives, proper medication, and belief in self can get you out of this.

Author: Swarna Karmakar

Swarna is an experienced content writer and marketer from Kolkata, India. His amateur interest in psychology, born out of mental health troubles he has experienced himself and among his friends and family, has led him to the dream that is Our Clear Minds. He works as a Senior Content Writer, and enjoys instrumental music and science fiction books in his pass time.