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Bipolar Disorder – Understanding the Risk Factors

Bipolar Disorder – Understanding the Risk Factors

While most people experience mood changes and fluctuating emotions at various times in their lives, people suffering from bipolar disorder experience more intense mood swings that can adversely affect their mental well-being and last for days, weeks, or months at a time. While there is no single cause of bipolar disorder, there are some key factors that contribute to a person’s chances of developing the condition.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Also known as manic-depressive disorder or manic depression, Bipolar disorder is a mental ailment that is typically diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood. Bipolar disorder features dangerous episodes which can consist of abnormally elevated moods ranging from extreme happiness, irritability, or high energy to severe depression combined with a desire to do little, if anything, at all. Although symptoms vary in duration and severity from person to person, people with bipolar disorder usually require lifelong treatment of some kind. 

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are three kinds of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I is defined as one or more manic episodes lasting at least seven days or more, resulting in a person seeking medical attention. People with Bipolar I often experience depression symptoms, as well.
  • Bipolar II includes hypomania and manic episodes, which aren’t as severe as Bipolar I and are often shorter in duration.
  • Cyclothymia sufferers tend to alternate between depression and mania for a period of at least 2 years, but the symptoms don’t match the criteria for bipolar I or II.

Bipolar Disorder Triggers

Factors that may worsen bipolar disorder or trigger an episode include stress, major life events like losing a loved one, financial troubles, interpersonal conflicts, and many others. How people deal with stress can also affect bipolar progression.

Other factors include:

  • Genetic make-up. Genetics has been shown to be a factor in whether someone develops bipolar disorder.  People with family members who have been diagnosed as bipolar are more likely to develop bipolar disorder themselves than those who have not.
  • How your brain is structured and how it functions. Physical anomalies in the brain and the interaction and function of chemical messengers like glutamate can worsen bipolar symptoms. Ketamine infusion therapy has been shown to relieve bipolar symptoms, possibly by strengthening or repairing weakened glutamate or other chemical messengers.
  • Migraine headaches, according to a report by the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • Childhood trauma.
  • An unhealthy diet and eating habits. High levels of saturated fats may worsen bipolar symptoms. According to the International Bipolar Foundation, certain foods, including baked goods made from white flour, processed foods, and foods with preservatives and high sugar content, can worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder. Some beverages, such as alcohol and caffeine-based drinks, may also have detrimental effects on those suffering from bipolar disorder.
  • Disrupted or poor sleep habits.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A study by the NIH showed that PTSD may worsen bipolar symptoms in some patients due to their lower chance of recovery, increased frequency of symptoms, higher risk of suicide attempts, and lower quality of life.
  • Substance abuse disorders. Evidence shows that those with bipolar disorder who also abuse drugs or alcohol often develop the condition at an earlier age and have worse symptoms compared with those who don’t abuse drugs, alcohol, or other substances.

The co-existence of other health conditions may also worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder, including:

  • Anxiety or anxiety disorders. According to the NIH, anxiety “can significantly impact the severity of bipolar symptoms,” increase the risk of suicide, reduce psychosocial functioning, and decrease someone’s quality of life.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). One of the characteristics of someone with ADHD is the inability to slow down and relax. This is also true in people with bipolar disorder and ADHD and is observable in episodes of mania and depression.
  • Eating disorders. Some reports indicate that 25% to 30% of those with bipolar disorder also experience binge-eating disorder, with younger people and females at greatest risk.
  • Other mood disorders like depression. In some cases, people who are prescribed antidepressants may experience worsening bipolar symptoms.

Bipolar disorder is often diagnosed through a medical examination and psychiatric assessment. It is common to keep track of mood changes and any potential triggers and to provide personal and family medical history so a diagnosis can be made based on criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Unique Treatment Option With Ketamine Infusion Therapy

If you’re experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder and not responding to conventional treatments, ask your healthcare provider about other options, including ketamine infusion therapy. Ketamine infusions delivered in a clinical setting under medical supervision may be able to control bipolar symptoms and help you regain control of your life.

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