Bipolar disorder is one of the most common mental illnesses seen in the United States today. Unfortunately, many people understand little about the disease and the devastation it causes to a patient’s life. For most of us, when we imagine someone with bipolar disorder, we think split personalities; however, the disease is much more than that.
Bipolar disorder is a very serious illness and may be harder to detect than most realize. Often a person may not show symptoms in public making it very hard to diagnose. The disorder is characterized by extreme changes in mood, often going from very energetic and upbeat to very low and even depressed. Many who suffer from the disorder have a manic stage, which can be visualized as full of energy, happy, and with tendencies towards risky or extreme behavior (i.e. risky sexual activity or extreme shopping sprees). This euphoric or manic stage often spirals into one of two categories. The first is an aggressive and very angry mood change, with the patient often feeling frustrated, trapped, or confused. The other mood change that can occur is a depressed mood, this is usually accompanied by a lack of energy, crying, a loss of pleasure, and in extreme cases sleep problems.
Unlike most medical illnesses, bipolar disorder is treated through a combination of medicine and strict counseling. Multiple medications are usually used to treat the disorder. There is usually a medication for the manic stage of the disorder and a different medication for the depressed stage of the disorder. Other medications may also be used as “mood stabilizers” to try to prevent the mood swings altogether. There are some well-known side effects of anti-psychotic drugs such as: weight gain, dependence on the drug, and liver failure if too much is consumed.
Shadowing physicians I have seen my fair share of patients suffering from mental disorders. Unfortunately, I have seen just as many patients suffering from side effects of drugs taken to treat the mental disorders. I say this because many people suffering from mental disorders tend to go drug happy when given the opportunity. They have to take one specific medication for their headaches, another drug for their depression, another for pain relief, etc. You have to be careful because these medications pile up and if you are taking to many the damage they can do to your liver is far worse than what they are treating usually.
Sources: Web MD