Abrupt mood swings and unusual shifts in energy, activity levels, and the ability to perform everyday tasks characterize bipolar disorder, which affects nearly 6 million American adults. Episodes of mania alternate with periods of depression.
During bipolar disorder’s manic phases, excitability and irritability can be very intense and unpredictable. People use poor judgment, act impulsively, and engage in pleasurable, high-risk behaviors from inappropriate sexual promiscuity to stealing cars. But taking medication regularly can help you avoid the consequences of reckless displays.
Medication Is the First Line of Defense
While bipolar disorder is incurable, treatment helps patients gain better control of their mood swings and life-disruptive symptoms. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an effective plan may include a combination of medication(s) and psychotherapy. Because bipolar is a lifelong illness, you need long-term, continuous treatment to control your symptoms. Even those with the most severe forms of this brain disorder can lead full, productive lives.
Save on Quetiapine, generic Seroquel; an atypical antipsychotic medication with mood stabilizing properties that help balance out extreme emotional states during manic phases. Your doctor also may prescribe additional medications such as antidepressants. Order these and other medications from this online Canadian pharmacy.
Treatment is most effective if you work closely with your doctor, talking openly about your concerns and options. Keeping a chart of your daily moods, symptoms, treatments, life events, and sleep patterns can help you and your physician track and treat your illness. He may switch or add medications to accommodate symptom changes or side effects.
Why You Lose Control
Researchers used brain imaging to identify neural pathways responsible for bipolar symptoms. They discovered that this disorder activates circuits in the brain involved in pursuing and relishing rewarding experiences, guiding sufferers toward riskier actions and away from safer ones. When you lack the internal censor that helps healthy people curb shocking actions, you lose control and do the unthinkable.
Dr. Liam Mason and Professors Wael El-Deredy and Daniela Montaldi at The University of Manchester along with Professor Richard Bentall and Dr. Noreen O’Sullivan at the University of Liverpool invited study participants to play a game of roulette in which they made safe or risky gambles. The researchers measured their brain activity throughout, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neuroscience underlying risky decisions.
Their findings revealed a dominance of the brain’s pleasure center, which drives people to seek out and pursue rewards. Before conscious awareness kicks in, they respond automatically. Activation of this ancient brain area, the nucleus accumbens, was stronger in people with bipolar disorder than healthy control group subjects.
Another key difference occurred in the prefrontal cortex, a recently evolved area of the brain that affects conscious thought. Much like an orchestra conductor, it gives people the ability to coordinate various drives and impulses such as quelling urges when risky choices arise. Ideally, this allows them to make decisions that are less rewarding immediately but better in the long run. The prefrontal cortex guided control participants toward safe gambles and away from risky ones. But for people with bipolar disorder, the balance swung the other way. Greater neural activity equaled risky gambles.
“The greater buzz that people with bipolar disorder get from reward is a double-edged sword,” El-Deredy said. It helps people strive for goals and ambitions, which may contribute to the successes that many people with this mental illness enjoy. But when making decisions, immediate rewards may sway these people more than the long-term consequences of their actions.
Bentall noted that this study shows how the new tools of neuroscience can increase understanding of the psychological mechanisms leading to this mental disorder. Mason, who works at the Institute of Psychiatry in London now, said that understanding how the brain regulates the pursuit of goals will help scientists design, evaluate, and monitor bipolar disorder therapies better. Treatment that supports bipolar patients in engaging with their value systems can regulate their quest for dangerous gratifications better.
- A long period of feeling high or being in an overly happy or outgoing mood
- Extreme irritability
- Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
- Experiencing easy distractions
- Increasing activities such as taking on new projects
- Being overly restless
- Sleeping little or not being tired
- Having an unrealistic belief in your abilities
- Behaving impulsively and engaging in pleasurable, high-risk behaviors
- Feeling tired or slowed down
- Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- Being restless or irritable
- Experiencing changes in eating, sleeping, or other habits
- Thinking of suicide or death or attempting suicide
Helpful Coping Measures
National Institute of Mental Health can help.
- Talk to your doctor about treatment options and your progress.
- Stay on your medication.
- Keep a regular routine such as eating meals at the same times every day and maintaining a consistent daily sleep/wake schedule.
- Try to get enough sleep.
- Learn to recognize warning signs that signal shifts into mania and depression.
- Expect your symptoms to improve gradually — not immediately.