An anxiety disorder can lead to bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder

"Exulting as high as the sky, saddened to death"

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a disease in which depressive episodes alternate with manic or hypomanic phases. Mood swings in connection with melancholy were already described in antiquity and numerous personalities of the past such as Virginia Woolf, Vincent van Gogh or Robert Schumann were "exultant, saddened to death". For people with bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive illness), life is like a roller coaster, caught in the extreme spectrum of emotions between boundless euphoria and absolute low. In the majority of patients, however, the depressive phases predominate.


How do you know that you may have bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a disease that usually shows itself for the first time at a young age. Those affected sometimes describe their lives as a film in which the scenes are mixed up and in which they are no longer directing. In contrast to depression, the typical manic phase develops rather quickly. Within just a few days, the mania makes those affected pulsate with energy and pushes them to seemingly high performance. You are in high spirits around the clock and burst with zest for action or have lots of ideas. The wheel of activity keeps turning until it stops at some point - it is not uncommon for the mania to be followed by a fall from hell into depression. If you ask bipolar patients afterwards about the onset of the illness, around 73% report that their illness began with a depressive episode. In the majority of patients, therefore, unipolar depression was initially treated and the overall course was not taken into account in the diagnosis.


What are the doctor's options for diagnosing bipolar disorder?

With the help of modern classification systems such as ICD-10 and DSM-IV, the diagnosis is determined on the basis of objectifiable and describable criteria. A detailed anamnesis is of great importance for the first patient contact. This includes precise surveys on addictions, previous behavioral problems or family predispositions.


How are bipolar disorders related to other (mental) illnesses?

In adults, alcohol and other drug abuse are the most common comorbidities. Drug abuse occurs primarily with additional anxiety disorders and poorly treated depression. In addition, people with bipolar diseases are more prone to other physical illnesses, with cardiovascular diseases being the top priority.



How are bipolar disorder treated?

In recent years, the treatment options for the depressive and manic phases have improved significantly with new drugs. Phase prophylaxis is always decisive in the therapy of bipolar disease - the "protective agent", so to speak, for the soul of these patients. Continuous contact with the treating doctor is a prerequisite for the success of the therapy. A meaningful phase prophylaxis can only be achieved through long-term use of medication, sometimes throughout the life.


As a person affected, what can you do yourself against this disease?

As an affected person, it is particularly important to take the prescribed medication regularly, even if you feel healthy. Stopping the disease without consulting a doctor can trigger another flare-up of the disease. With regard to relapse prevention, too, a stable relationship between doctor and patient is essential in order to identify the first signs of a renewed acute episode at an early stage and to take countermeasures. Observing and maintaining a regular day-night rhythm is also of great importance.


How can family members help someone with bipolar disorder?

Since mania means a high phase of emotions for those affected, they refuse, especially in this phase, to voluntarily take medication that would end this high phase. It is not uncommon for relatives to “sit out” this phase of the illness, which can take several weeks and can put a strain on the relationship. Children and adolescents particularly suffer from the fact that mothers or fathers are partially or even completely absent from their upbringing and household tasks during their illnesses. Family members should also think of themselves. There are now some self-help groups specifically for relatives. Reacting early is extremely important. The first signs are often belittled and not taken seriously.


What are the consequences of untreated bipolar disorder?

Relationships often break apart, jobs are lost, training courses are broken off, and addiction problems can arise. Letting the disease take its course can be fatal: 20-25% of those affected attempt suicide, 15% die by suicide. People with bipolar disorder need help, and early!