Friday, May 07, 2010

Swing high, swing low - my mood swings go...

When what you are becoming crosses the thin line of your health issues and mental issues, diagnosis becomes a challenge, and the treatment may be quite difficult to administer. Those who have a problem are the first to quickly deny it, and those who are sick are first to say they are well.

Here is one area when it involves both physical and mental problems, and how it can be helped.

Read on...

'Mood swings' could be a sign of bipolar disorder

SINGAPORE: You're exuberant, upbeat and as happy as a lark one moment. Then, pessimistic and anxious the next.

Before you brush it off as another regular mood swing, think again.

You could be suffering from bipolar disorder, a mental disorder that affects approximately 0.5 to 2 per cent of the world's population, including celebrities such as funnyman Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller. Britney Spears' recent erratic behaviour was also reportedly caused by bipolar disorder.

Unlike depression which is characterised by a pervasive low mood people with bipolar disorder experience dramatic mood swings, from the lows of depression to extreme mania.

Said Dr Mok Yee Ming, registrar at Institute of Mental Health's department of general psychiatry: "Severe changes in energy and behaviour go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.

The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide: What You and Your Family Need to Know "These episodes typically recur across the life span. In between episodes, most people with bipolar disorders are free of symptoms and may function normally," added Dr Mok.

An episode can last from a few days to weeks or even months.

Pre-school teacher Grace who withheld her real name due to the nature of her job had her first brush with the condition after her first child was born.

The 46-year-old mother of two has suffered eight episodes of mania and depression each lasting for as long as nine months for the past 19 years.

"I was exuberant and so full of energy that I couldn't rest even for a moment during my confinement. My mother would nag at me to rest but I was very happy looking after my baby, keeping the house clean and making sure everything was perfect," said Grace.

Break the Bipolar Cycle: A Day-by-Day Guide to Living with Bipolar Disorder"When I returned to work, I wanted everything to be just as perfect at home and at work. I wanted to prove to my boss that I could perform just as well as before."

But in less than two months, depression set in when she could not cope. She often "cried for no reason" and contemplated suicide.

Like Grace, patients with bipolar disorder can experience symptoms of manic highs before spiralling downwards to depression.

"During an episode of manic high, the patient may feel exceedingly energetic, exuberant, elated or have racing thoughts," said consultant psychiatrist Dr Adrian Wang, who runs Dr Adrian Wang Psychiatric and Counselling Care at Gleneagles Medical Centre.

"He or she may also have a decreased need for sleep and an excessive need for pleasure-driven activities such as shopping sprees or sexual intercourse," he added.

Loving Someone with Bipolar DisorderIn milder cases, it is not uncommon for the condition to go undetected, said Dr Wang. "When the person is moody or irritable, it may seem like a character flaw. But it could actually be a medical problem."

Presently, scientists don't know for sure what causes bipolar disorder, although environmental and genetic factors may play a role.

Stress, as in Grace's case, may also play a role in triggering the illness.

Because bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness, a patient might require long-term preventive treatment comprising a combination of medication and psychosocial treatments.

"Medications, known as mood stabilisers, are usually prescribed to help control the symptoms. In addition to medication, psychosocial treatments which include counselling and teaching patients to cope with his or her emotions are also helpful," said Dr Wang.

Bipolar Disorder: The Ultimate GuideLike other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder can be hard on the patient's family and friends.

Dr Mok explained: "They often have to cope with the patient's serious behavioural problems such as wild spending sprees during a manic episode or the hopelessness and pessimism during a depressive episode — as well as the consequences that follow."

While such behavioural problems can make it especially difficult and frustrating for other people to empathise with their condition, Dr Wang said that it is important to realise that bipolar disorder is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw.

"No one chooses to be like this. You don't have bipolar disorder because you're a bad person," he added. - TODAY/ar

Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families (2nd Edition)Taken from, Health - Thursday, 18-March-2010
'Mood swings' could be a sign of bipolar disorder

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