Thursday, 28 January 2016

Bipolar Disorder FAQs Part 2

 4. Some women experience mood swings, for instance, during certain times of their menstrual cycle. When are "mood swings" not considered normal, and may warrant medical attention?

 Many women may notice that they have dysphoric or irritable mood before and during their period, These mood changes are often described as mood swings. These mood swings are generally unrelated to Bipolar Disorder as there is no swing into a manic state. However, if the individual experiences irritability, tension or low mood severe enough to interfere with work, social relationships and activities, they may be suffering from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

 5. A local 2010 Singapore Mental Health Study found that the average time taken for bipolar disorder sufferers to seek help was 9 years. - Why do you think they take so long to seek professional help?

When the symptoms of Bipolar disorder is mild, it can be hard to detect. Most of the time, the afflicted individual may not have insight into their symptoms. In fact, many enjoy their "new found" confidence and inflated self esteem. Family members may think that the individual is just stressed out or being difficult instead of recognising the symptoms as due to Bipolar Disorder. The strong stigma that remains associated with psychological conditions also prevents individuals and there loved ones from seeking help with professionals until the condition becomes severe.

6. Based on your experience working with these patients, what usually prompts patients to seek medical attention for their symptoms?

Many seek help during their depressive phase, when they feel lousy about themselves. and through careful history taking with the patient and their loved ones, a history of previous manic episodes can be obtained. Many patients may be admitted by their loved ones to the hospital when they display unusual behaviours or become aggressive during their manic episodes.

7. How common is it for bipolar disorder to go undetected, or dismissed as something not serious? Why is that so?

 Although there are no available data, Bipolar Disorder is one of the most likely diagnosis to go undetected. Unlike many medical condition where lab tests or objective testing is available in making a diagnosis, the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder can only be based on the history provided by the patient and his loved ones and observations made by the psychiatrist during the consult. In milder case of Bipolar Disorder where the individuals present with issues such as irritability, restlessness, insomnia, and excessive alcohol consumption. For someone who does not know the individual intimately, the mood changes may be assumed to be normal. Even loved ones may sometimes find it hard to decide if the individual's mood is unusually high or he is an exuberant person to begin with. They may see the change as a change in his personality rather than him having a mental illness.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Bipolar Disorder FAQs Part 1

1. At what age does bipolar disorder typically surface, and why?

 It typically surfaces during early adulthood, usually in the 20s. This is attributed to the natural history of the illness and the real reason is not known.

2. What are symptoms of bipolar disorder, and how are they different from depression? (I understand that bipolar patients experience periods of low moods too, so how to differentiate between the two?) 

Patients with Bipolar suffers from episodes of mania or hypomania and depression. The depressive episodes of Bipolar Disorder are indistinguishable from clinical depression. As such patients who have depressive episodes are first diagnosed with clinical depression and the diagnosis will be revised should an episode of mania or hypomania surface. The symptoms of mania are elevated mood, increased energy, increased self esteem, decreased need for sleep, pressure to keep talking or unusual talkativeness, racing thoughts, distractibility, excessive involvement in harmful activities. The symptoms should last for at least one week. In Hypomania, the symptoms are milder and the duration may be shorter.

3. How quickly can a bipolar patient's mood swing from one extreme to another? What are the triggers for the mood changes? 

 Most bipolar disorder consists of mood episodes, depressive or manic, that typically last weeks to months if not treated. A typical example will be one month of mania followed by three months of depression and the rest of the year is normal mood. However, there are patients who suffer rapid cycling bipolar disorder who cycle four times of more a year. Whilst some patients are thought to cycle even more frequently than that, ie. days to even within a day, this remains controversial. Stresses in life, like work stress or family conflict, can sometimes trigger an episode. Sometimes a period of poor sleep, due to exams or work commitments can also lead to episodes.