Karachi (PPI) - We all have our ups and downs, our off days and our on days, but if youre suffering from bipolar disorder, these peaks and valleys are more severe. The symptoms of bipolar disorder can hurt your job and school performance, damage your relationships, and disrupt your daily life. And although bipolar disorder is treatable, many people dont recognise the warning signs and get the help they need. Since bipolar disorder tends to worsen without treatment, its important to learn what the symptoms look like. Recognising the problem is the first step to getting it under control. Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) causes serious shifts in a persons mood, energy, thinking, and behavior - from the highs of mania on one extreme, to the lows of depression on the other. More than just a fleeting good or bad mood, the cycles of bipolar disorder last for days, weeks, or months. And unlike ordinary mood swings, the mood changes of bipolar disorder are so intense that they interfere with your ability to function. During a manic episode, a person might impulsively quit a job, charge up huge amounts on credit cards, or feel rested after sleeping two hours. During a depressive episode, the same person might be too tired to get out of bed and full of self-loathing and hopelessness over being unemployed and in debt. Bipolar disorder is more common than many think, affecting nearly 3 out of every 100 adults in the U.S according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Its causes arent completely understood, but bipolar disorder often runs in families. The first manic or depressive episode of bipolar disorder usually occurs in the teenage yeas can be subtle and confusing, so many people with bipolar disorder are overlooked or misdiagnosed - resulting in unnecessary suffering. But with proper treatment and support, you can lead a rich and fulfilling life. Living with bipolar disorder is challenging. But with treatment, healthy coping skills, and a solid support system, you can live fully while managing your symptoms. There are four types of mood episodes - Mania, Hypomania, Bipolar depression, Mixed episode - each has a unique set of symptoms. In the manic phase of bipolar disorder, feelings of heightened energy, creativity, and euphoria are common. People experiencing a manic episode often talk a mile a minute, sleep very little, and are hyperactive. They may also feel like theyre all-powerful, invincible, or destined for greatness. But while mania feels good at first, it has a tendency to spiral out of control. People often behave recklessly during a manic episode - gambling away savings, engaging in inappropriate sexual activity, or making foolish business investments, for example. They may also become angry, irritable, and aggressive - picking fights, lashing out when others dont go along with their plans, and blaming anyone who criticizes their behavior. Some people even become delusional or start hearing voices. Common signs and symptoms of mania include - Feeling unusually high and optimistic, or extremely irritable. Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs about ones abilities or powers. Sleeping very little, but feeling extremely energetic. Talking so rapidly that others cant keep up. Racing thoughts; jumping quickly from one idea to the next. Highly distractible, unable to concentrate. Impaired judgment and impulsiveness. Acting recklessly without thinking about the consequences. Delusions and hallucinations (in severe cases). Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. People in a hypomanic state feel euphoric, energetic, and productive, but they are able to carry on with their day-to-day lives and they never lose touch with reality. To others, it may seem as if people with hypomania are merely in an unusually good mood. However, hypomania can result in bad decisions that harm relationships, careers, and reputations. In addition, hypomania often escalates to full-blown mania or is followed by a major depressive episode. In the past, bipolar depression was lumped in with regular depression. But a growing body of research suggests that there are significant differences between the two, especially when it comes to recommended treatments. Most people with bipolar depression are not helped by antidepressants. In fact, there is a risk that antidepressants can make bipolar disorder worse - triggering mania or hypomania, causing rapid cycling between mood states, or interfering with other mood stabilizing drugs. Despite many similarities, certain symptoms are more common in bipolar depression than in regular depression. For example, bipolar depression is more likely to involve irritability, guilt, unpredictable mood swings, and feelings of restlessness. People with bipolar depression also tend to move and speak slowly, sleep a lot, and gain weight. In addition, they are more likely to develop psychotic depression - a condition in which theyve lost contact with reality - and to experience major disability in work and social functioning. Common symptoms of bipolar depression include - Feeling hopeless, sad, or empty. Irritability. Inability to experience pleasure. Fatigue or loss of energy. Physical and mental sluggishness. Appetite or weight changes. Sleep problems. Concentration and memory problems. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Thoughts of death or suicide. A mixed episode of bipolar disorder features symptoms of both mania or hypomania and depression. Common signs of a mixed episode include depression combined with agitation, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, distractibility, and racing thoughts. This combination of high energy and low mood makes for a particularly high risk of suicide. There are many different faces of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I Disorder (mania or a mixed episode) - The classic manic-depressive form of the illness, characterized by at least one manic episode or mixed episode. Usually-but not always-Bipolar I Disorder also involves at least one episode of depression. Bipolar II Disorder (hypomania and depression) - In Bipolar II disorder, the person doesnt experience full-blown manic episodes. Instead, the illness involves episodes of hypomania and severe depression. Cyclothymia (hypomania and mild depression) - Cyclothymia is a milder form of bipolar disorder. It consists of cyclical mood swings. However, the symptoms are less severe than full-blown mania or depression. Treatment for bipolar disorder - If you spot the symptoms of bipolar depression in yourself or someone else, dont wait to get help. Ignoring the problem wont make it go away; in fact, it will almost certainly get worse. Living with untreated bipolar disorder can lead to problems in everything from your career to your relationships to your health. Diagnosing the problem as early as possible and getting into treatment can help prevent these complications. If youre reluctant to seek treatment because you like the way you feel when youre manic, remember that the energy and euphoria come with a price. Mania and hypomania often turn destructive, hurting you and the people around you. Bipolar disorder requires long-term treatment. Since bipolar disorder is a chronic, relapsing illness, its important to continue treatment even when youre feeling better. Most people with bipolar disorder need medication to prevent new episodes and stay symptom-free. There is more to treatment than medication. Medication alone is usually not enough to fully control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. The most effective treatment strategy for bipolar disorder involves a combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and social support. Its best to work with an experienced psychiatrist. Bipolar disorder is a complex condition. Diagnosis can be tricky and treatment is often difficult. For safety reasons, medication should be closely monitored. A psychiatrist who is skilled in bipolar disorder treatment can help you navigate these twists and turns. Treatment for bipolar disorder is about more than the relief of symptoms. The true goal of treatment is recovery - getting to the point where bipolar disorder no longer disrupts your life. The right treatment plan can help you reach this goal. While dealing with bipolar disorder isnt always easy, it doesnt have to run your life. But in order to successfully manage bipolar disorder, you have to make smart choices. Your lifestyle and daily habits have a significant impact on your moods. Following are some tips for self-help: Get educated. Learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder. The more you know, the better youll be at assisting your own recovery. Keep stress in check. Avoid high-stress situations, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing. Seek support. Its important to have people you can turn to for help and encouragement. Try joining a support group or talking to a trusted friend. Make healthy choices. Healthy sleeping, eating, and exercising habits can help stabilise your moods. Keeping a regular sleep schedule is particularly important. Monitor your moods. Keep track of your symptoms and watch for signs that your moods are swinging out of control so you can stop the problem before it starts.