Although many people live with manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, many are never accurately diagnosed. Manic depression is a condition that needs to be controlled carefully throughout someone’s lifetime. Follow this article to learn about the natural cure for bipolar disorder and manic depression.
Do you or someone you know experience extreme mood swings with any type of recurring frequency? I’m talking about things like manic “high” periods of increased energy in rotation with very “low” periods of depression. If so, it may be a sign of manic depression. Although many people live with manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, many are never accurately diagnosed. Experts believe at least 5 million to 6 million people suffer from this condition in the U.S. alone.
While even healthy people experience many changes in their moods throughout the day and over the course of their lifetimes, those with manic depression are prone to much more abrupt and drastic “ups and downs.” The majority of people with manic depression experience so many low (depression) and high (manic) phases that their quality of life is significantly impaired. This greatly affects their ability to live normally, hold relationships, take care of their bodies, work and communicate with others.
To explore more about what is bipolar disorder and manic depression and is there any natural cure for bipolar disorder and manic depression, follow this article.
Table of Contents
What is bipolar disorder and manic depression?
Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities.
When your mood shifts to mania or hypomania (less extreme than mania), you may feel euphoric, full of energy or unusually irritable. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior and the ability to think clearly. Episodes of mood swings may occur rarely or multiple times a year. While most people will experience some emotional symptoms between episodes, some may not experience any.
Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder is treated with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy). Bipolar disorder impacts just about every facet of someone’s life, including that person’s thoughts, bodily sensations, sleep, personality and behaviors. During the high manic periods of manic depression, symptoms usually include restlessness, rage, hallucinations and aggression.
On the other hand, during the low episodes symptoms are those common to depression, such as fatigue, despair, loss of motivation and social isolation. Although the exact cause of manic depression isn’t entirely known, some of the factors contributing to its development include genetics, brain chemistry, childhood environment and life events.
Like clinical/major depression and other mental disorders, manic depression is a condition that needs to be controlled carefully throughout someone’s lifetime. Becoming educated on the condition and its early warning signs, getting professional help, and reducing anxiety and depression through a healthy lifestyle and lowering stress can all help manage manic depression.
Finding out all you can about how bipolar disorder develops, progresses and is sustained can help you or a family member deal with the symptoms of this sometimes-debilitating condition.
Why is manic depression known as bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that can cause dramatic mood swings, lapses in judgment, and episodes of psychosis. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), over six million American adults are living with bipolar disorder, and many of them are not receiving adequate treatment for their symptoms.
Despite its prevalence, bipolar disorder still carries stigma, much of which can be attributed to early understandings of the condition, formerly known as “manic depression.” But advances in medical research and renewed efforts in building mental health awareness have revolutionized the diagnosis and treatment for bipolar disorder that’s available today.
Bipolar disorder can trace its earliest roots to the first century, when ancient Greeks and Romans established the opposing terms “mania” and “melancholia” to describe the symptoms of mental illness. In modern English, these two words translate to “manic” and “depressive.”
However, the term “manic depression” wasn’t formally used until the early 20th century, when German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin used it to describe mental illness involving mood swings and emotional disturbance—periods of “mania” alternating with periods of depression. Kraepelin’s work on classifying mental disorders became the basis for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) that psychiatrists use to develop diagnoses today.
The term “bipolar disorder” was first introduced during the third revision of the DSM in 1980, when psychiatrists agreed to do away with the term “manic-depressive.” Using the word, “manic” often led patients to be described as “maniacs,” a label fraught with stigma and judgment.
Furthermore, by reclassifying the condition as bipolar disorder, mental health professionals were better able to distinguish discrete symptoms – not just those related to emotions or mood, but physical and cognitive ones, as well. This specificity allowed doctors to give patients a more accurate, clinical diagnosis for their condition.
What are the types of bipolar disorder?
A person’s mood changes and behaviors need to be significantly different from their typical moods and behaviors to receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder can present in many different ways. The severity of the symptoms can also vary greatly. Some people have very mild symptoms.
For these people, treatment can significantly limit the impact bipolar disorder has on their lives. Other people have more severe symptoms. Even with treatment, bipolar disorder can have a significant impact on these people’s lives. The types of bipolar disorder differ based on the type and intensity of the mood episodes.
- Bipolar I disorder
- Bipolar II disorder
- Cyclothymic disorder
- Bipolar disorder due to substance or medication
- Bipolar disorder due to medical condition
- Rapid cycling bipolar disorder
- Bipolar disorder with psychotic features
Bipolar I disorder:
This type causes manic episodes with mixed features. Episodes last at least a week. The episode can be so serious that you need to be hospitalized for the safety of you and those around you. Manic episodes of bipolar I disorder are preceded or followed by a major depressive episode. The depressive episode lasts at least two weeks.
Bipolar II disorder:
This type causes at least one hypomanic episode and one major depressive episode. It causes no serious manic or mixed episodes.
This type causes numerous episodes of mild hypomania and mild depression that persist for at least two years. In cyclothymic disorder, symptoms don’t rise to the level of full-blown hypomania or major depression.
Bipolar disorder due to substance or medication:
This results in symptoms of bipolar disorder brought on by exposure to a substance or medication. For example, recreational drugs like cocaine or phencyclidine (PCP) or medications such as prednisone can cause symptoms of a manic episode.
Bipolar disorder due to medical condition:
With this type, a person experiences symptoms of bipolar disorder that occur due to another medical condition.
Rapid cycling bipolar disorder:
This is a more complicated version of bipolar disorder. It’s defined as having at least four episodes of mania, hypomania, or major depression within 12 months. Women may be more likely to have rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. It’s also more common among people whose first episode occurred when they were young.
Bipolar disorder with psychotic features:
This is another serious version of bipolar disorder. During a mood episode, a person can hallucinate or have delusional beliefs. These are features of psychosis. An example of a hallucination is hearing someone talk to you when there is no one there. An example of a delusional belief is thinking you have special powers.
What do you understand about the episodes of bipolar disorder?
Mood changes are often responses to changes in your life. Hearing bad news can make you sad or angry. A fun vacation brings about feelings of happiness. For most people, such emotional highs and lows are temporary and appropriate to the situation. For people with bipolar disorder, however, dramatic shifts in mood can emerge at any time and last for long periods, called episodes.
Bipolar disorder symptoms can occur as manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes. Some episodes can include symptoms of manic and depressive episodes. This phenomenon is called a mixed state, or a mood episode with mixed features.
Episodes may be sporadic, and there may not be any symptoms between episodes. For some, manic and depressive episodes may be frequent and interfere with work and relationships.
- Manic episodes
- Hypomanic episodes
- Depressive episodes
A manic episode is a period of extreme happiness, overly outgoing behavior, or extreme irritability combined with increased energy. These episodes last for one or more weeks and may result in hospitalization. Someone in a manic episode may:
- Talk very quickly or loudly and may interrupt others.
- Be frequently distracted and unable to focus on one task.
- Require less sleep than they usually do.
- Go on spending sprees.
- Engage in risky sexual behavior.
- Have an unusually high self esteem.
Moods can shift rapidly from happiness to anger, sadness, or irritability during a manic episode. The symptoms are severe enough to cause problems at work or in one’s personal life. A person experiencing a manic episode may not know they are ill and may not want to seek treatment.
A hypomanic episode has similar symptoms to a manic episode. It lasts for at least four days, with symptoms present most of the day nearly every day of the episode. Generally, a hypomanic episode does not cause as severe of problems in one’s work or personal life as a manic episode.
A major depressive episode typically lasts for at least two weeks. It includes multiple features of depression that interfere with work or relationships. A person in a depressive episode may feel sad or hopeless. They may withdraw from social situations. They may also lose interest in people and activities they usually enjoy. Features of a depressive episode include:
- Trouble concentrating
- Feelings of fatigue
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Thoughts of death and suicide
What are the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder?
In bipolar disorder, the dramatic episodes of high and low moods do not follow a set pattern. Someone may feel the same mood state (depressed or manic) several times before switching to the opposite mood. These episodes can happen over a period of weeks, months, and sometimes even years. How severe it gets differs from person to person and can also change over time, becoming more or less severe.
Symptoms of mania (the highs) are:
- Excessive happiness, hopefulness, and excitement.
- Sudden changes from being joyful to being irritable, angry, and hostile.
- Rapid speech or poor concentration.
- Increased energy and less need for sleep.
- Unusually high sex drive.
- Making grand and unrealistic plans.
- Showing poor judgment.
- Drug and alcohol abuse.
- Less need of sleep
- Lexx appetite.
- Larger sense of self-confidence and well-being.
- Being easily distracted.
During depressive periods (“the lows”), a person with bipolar disorder may have:
- Loss of energy.
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
- Not enjoying things they once liked.
- Trouble concentrating
- Talking slowly
- Less of a sex drive
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Uncontrollable crying
- Trouble making decisions
- Needing more sleep
- Appetite changes that make you lose or gain weight.
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Attempting suicide.
What are the causes of bipolar disorder?
No one knows exactly what causes bipolar disorder. Research suggests that a combination of factors could increase your chance of developing it. This includes physical, environmental and social conditions. Following are some of the causes that may develop a chance of bipolar disorder:
- Childhood trauma
- Stressful life events
- Brain chemistry
- Family links
- Medication, drugs, and alcohol
Some experts believe that experiencing a lot of emotional distress as a child can cause bipolar disorder to develop. This could be because childhood trauma and distress can have a big effect on your ability to manage your emotions. This can include experiences like:
- Sexual, emotional, or physical abuse
- Traumatic events
- Losing someone very close to you, such as a parent
Stressful life events:
You may be able to link the start of your symptoms to stressful experiences or situations in your life. Some people also find that stress can trigger a mood episode. Or it may make symptoms feel more intense or difficult to manage. Things that can cause stress include:
- A relationship breakdown
- Money worries and poverty
- Experiencing trauma
- Losing someone close to you
- Being abused, bullied or harassed, including experiencing racism.
- Feeling lonely or isolated
- Feeling under pressure while working, studying or looking for work.
Evidence shows that you can treat bipolar symptoms with certain psychiatric medications which act on the neurotransmitters. These are the ‘messenger chemicals’ in your brain. This suggests that bipolar disorder may relate to functional problems of the neurotransmitters. While some research supports this, no one knows for sure how these neurotransmitters work. And we don’t know whether problems with these are a cause of bipolar disorder, or a result of it.
If you experience bipolar disorder, you’re more likely to have a family member who also experiences bipolar moods and symptoms. But they might not have a formal diagnosis. This suggests that bipolar disorder can be passed on genetically through families.
But this doesn’t strictly mean that there is one ‘bipolar gene’. Family links are likely to be much more complex. For example, researchers think that social factors can also trigger experiences of bipolar disorder symptoms. And family members can be an influential part of your environment as you grow up.
Medication, drugs, and alcohol:
Medication, drugs and alcohol may cause you to experience some bipolar moods and symptoms. For example:
- Medication – Some medications can cause hypomania or mania as a side effect. This can happen when you’re taking them, or as a withdrawal symptom when you stop taking them. This includes medications for physical conditions and psychiatric medications – including some antidepressants. Depression can also be a side effect of a lot of different medications. It’s important to discuss any concerns about medication side effects with your doctor.
- Alcohol and drugs – Using these can cause you to experience symptoms similar to mania, hypomania or depression. It can often be difficult to distinguish the effects of alcohol and drugs from mental health symptoms.
Some studies suggest that using certain recreational drugs can increase your risk of developing bipolar disorder. But the evidence is very limited. If you’re worried about the effects of medication, alcohol or recreational drugs on your mental health, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor.
What can trigger bipolar mood episodes?
While causes of stress are highly individual, certain life events and lifestyle patterns may act as triggers. Watch out for these common culprits.
- Lack of sleep
- Arguments with partners, coworkers, or friends
- Stress of a bad breakup or failed marriage
- Alcohol abuse
- Seasonal changes
- Shifting hormones
- Financial strain
- Death of a loved one
Lack of sleep:
A change in your sleep pattern is a hallmark symptom of bipolar disorder — but it can also be a trigger. Shift workers, people who work long hours, and students who are short on sleep are all at risk for having a recurrence of a mood episode related to a lack of sleep.
Arguments with partners, coworkers, or friends:
Broken relationships are too often the result of untreated bipolar disorder. But getting into a spat with a loved one could also be a red flag. Your argument could be due to the irritability that often occurs during a manic or depressive episode, or could itself cause stress that becomes a contributing factor for a recurrent episode. Any type of relationship conflict whether it’s with your partner, coworker, family member, or friend — can trigger stress and send you over the edge.
Stress of a bad breakup or failed marriage:
A number of people with bipolar disorder, especially those with a history of severe manic episodes have failed marriages. If you’re going through a divorce, working with your therapist through what is often a drawn-out and extremely stressful process can help. You might consider a durable power of attorney that allows someone else to make major decisions for you, such as financial ones, when you are going through an episode of depression or mania in relation to or during a breakup.
Abusing drugs and alcohol doesn’t cause bipolar disorder, but it can cause an episode to suddenly occur, or it can worsen the underlying illness. What’s more, about one in five people with bipolar disorder have a substance abuse disorder. Intoxication with drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines can cause or worsen manic symptoms, while the aftereffects of cocaine or use of alcohol are associated with worsening of depressive symptoms.
The treatment of bipolar disorder can trigger episodes of mania by further setting off unstable moods and behaviors. Many psychiatrists say they’ve seen patients enter a manic phase after starting antidepressants — and some feel uncomfortable prescribing them to bipolar patients.
About 20 percent of people with bipolar disorder experience fluctuations in mood when the weather changes. Specifically, they’re more likely to undergo seasonal depression during the early winter, and mania or hypomania during the spring or summer.
Women with bipolar disorder have up to a 67 percent chance of experiencing an episode of bipolar disorder in the postpartum period — the weeks and months after birth. Changing sleep patterns, altered medication prescriptions, and shifting hormones after delivery can combine to serve as risk factors for a postpartum mood or psychotic episode. Use the nine months of pregnancy to work with your entire medical team.
Your bipolar disorder specialists and your ob-gyn on treatment approaches you can try during and after pregnancy to help prevent postpartum depression, postpartum mania, or postpartum psychosis. Bipolar disorder is also strongly associated with postpartum psychosis, a severe mental illness characterized by an inability to respond emotionally to one’s newborn, or thoughts of harming one’s baby.
People who aren’t satisfied with their work can find it liberating. For others, the financial and emotional strains involved can trigger major stress. Either way, the dramatic shift in emotions could trigger a bipolar episode. It may be a good idea to put away three to six months of savings to help with the transition, should you lose your job.
Death of a loved one:
The death of a loved one may be the most stressful life event any of us will ever face. Many people continue managing bipolar disorder successfully through their mourning, but it may have extreme consequences for others, who can develop “funeral mania.”
This occurs when someone with controlled bipolar disorder attends the funeral of the loved one and has a manic episode over the course of the following week. The period of bereavement should be one of increased monitoring and heightened support.
What are the long term effects of bipolar disorder on the body?
Bipolar disorder, previously known as “manic depression,” is a brain-based disorder. This condition is characterized by one or more occurrences of manic or “mixed” episodes, and in some cases, may include a major depressive episode. Moreover, the disorder has the potential to affect virtually all other areas of your body, from your energy levels and appetite to your muscles and even libido. Read on to find out how bipolar can affect different areas of your body.
- Central nervous system
- Cardiovascular system
- Endocrine system
- Muscular system
Central nervous system:
Bipolar disorder primarily affects the brain, which is part of your central nervous system. Composed of both the brain and the spine, your central nervous system is made up of a series of nerves that are in control of different body activities. Some of the effects include:
- Loss of interest
- Overly defensive
- Proactive attitude
- Easily distracted
A depressive episode can also cause concentration difficulties, but your mind may feel a lot slower than normal. You might feel restless and have a hard time making decisions. Your memory may also be low.
When you have anxiety in addition to bipolar disorder, this can affect your cardiovascular system, too. This includes:
- Heart palpitations
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased pulse
Higher-than-normal blood pressure may also occur. People with bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with anxiety or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Your endocrine system consists of hormones that rely heavily on messaging signals from the brain. When these signals are disrupted, you can experience hormone fluctuations. Bipolar disorder can cause changes to your libido. Mania may put your sex drive on overload, while depression can significantly decrease it.
Some people experience poor judgment with this disorder, which can also increase the risk for poor decision-making in terms of sexual health. Bipolar disorder may also affect your weight, especially during depressive phases. With depression, you might experience a decrease in your appetite, resulting in weight loss. It’s also possible to have the opposite experience — your appetite might increase, thereby making you gain weight.
Bipolar disorder doesn’t directly affect the bones and muscles, but if you experience depressive episodes, these can affect your skeletal and muscular systems. Depression can lead to unexplained aches and pains, which can make everyday activities difficult to manage. You might also find it difficult to exercise due to your discomfort. Moreover, if you do experience depression, weakness and fatigue are common and can be accompanied with sleeping too much or an inability to sleep.
How can you diagnose bipolar disorder?
To determine if you have bipolar disorder, your evaluation may include:
- Physical exam – Your doctor may do a physical exam and lab tests to identify any medical problems that could be causing your symptoms.
- Psychiatric assessment – Your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist, who will talk to you about your thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns. You may also fill out a psychological self-assessment or questionnaire. With your permission, family members or close friends may be asked to provide information about your symptoms.
- Mood charting – You may be asked to keep a daily record of your moods, sleep patterns or other factors that could help with diagnosis and finding the right treatment.
- Criteria for bipolar disorder – Your psychiatrist may compare your symptoms with the criteria for bipolar and related disorders.
Is there any natural cure for bipolar disorder and manic depression?
Some people with bipolar disorder have reported that using alternative treatments provides relief from symptoms. Scientific evidence supports many of the benefits in treating depression. But the effectiveness in treating bipolar disorder requires more research.
Always check with your doctor before starting any alternative treatments. Supplements and therapies may interact with your medication and cause unintended side effects. Alternative treatments shouldn’t replace traditional treatments or medications. Some people have reported feeling increased benefits when combining the two together.
- Fish oil
- Rhodiola rosea
- Lifestyle changes
- Practicing moderation
- Calming techniques
- Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT)
Fish oil and fish are common sources of two of the three main types of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
These fatty acids may affect the chemicals in your brain associated with mood disorders. Bipolar disorder seems to be less common in countries where people consume fish and fish oil. People with depression also tend to have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. Omega-3 fatty acids may help:
- Reduce irritability and aggression
- Maintain mood stability
- Reduce depression symptoms
- Improve brain function
You can take fish oil supplements to help reach this daily amount.
Rhodiola rosea (arctic root or golden root) may help treat mild to moderate depression. R. rosea is a mild stimulant and may cause insomnia. Other side effects include vivid dreaming and nausea. Ask your doctor before taking R. rosea, especially if you have a history of breast cancer. This herb binds with estrogen receptors and may increase your risk of breast cancer.
This water-soluble vitamin may be effective for symptoms of mania in people with rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Results of one study of six people with rapid cycling bipolar disorder who received 2,000 to 7,200 milligrams of choline per day (in addition to treatment with lithium) indicated improved manic symptoms.
Although lifestyle changes won’t treat bipolar disorder, certain changes may enhance your treatment and help to stabilize your mood. These changes include:
- Practicing moderation
Bipolar disorder can disrupt a person’s sleep. During a manic phase, an individual may sleep very little, but during a low phase, they may sleep for a long time. Missing sleep can trigger a mood change, and getting enough sleep is essential to managing mood. Good sleep hygiene can encourage people with the condition to have regular sleep.
Moderate and regular exercise can help to balance mood and prevent a number of health problems, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. There is a lack of evidence to show that physical activity can specifically help people with bipolar disorder, but some research suggests it may help to improve mood during a low phase.
A healthful diet is an important lifestyle habit for a person with bipolar disorder. A 2011 study found that up to 68 percent of people seeking treatment for bipolar disorder have excess weight or obesity. People with bipolar disorder also had a higher risk of various other conditions, including diabetes, low bone density, and cardiovascular disease. A healthful diet can help to reduce the risk of these conditions.
People with bipolar disorder have a higher risk of engaging in addictive behaviors. One study found that 56 percent of people with the condition had at some time experienced addiction involving either alcohol or drugs. Certain circuits in the brain play a role in pursuing rewarding experiences.
One study has suggested that people with bipolar disorder have stronger activation in these circuits. This may be what drives the person towards risky behavior. The positive side of this, say the authors of the study, is that it encourages people to work with energy toward their goals and ambitions. On the other hand, it may mean that an individual focuses fully on the short-term rewards of a decision while disregarding the possible long-term risks.
Some scientists think magnesium has a role regulating mood and both manic and depressive episodes and work with the medications to make them work effectively. As a result, some doctors may recommend magnesium supplements. Discuss magnesium supplements with your doctor. Taking a multivitamin will include the daily recommended dosage of magnesium.
Some people suggest that vitamins may help, specifically vitamin C and folic acid. Researchers have found weak evidence that vitamin C may help, but none to support the use of folic acid specifically for bipolar disorder. There is evidence that folic acid supports cognitive health, but it is not clear whether this or other vitamins can help with bipolar disorder. Overall, it is not clear that dietary supplements can help people with bipolar disorder. More studies are needed to confirm the benefits of any supplement.
Stress complicates bipolar disorder. Several alternative treatments aim to reduce anxiety and stress. These treatments include:
- Massage therapy
Calming techniques can’t cure bipolar disorder. But they may help you manage your symptoms and be a valuable part of your treatment plan.
Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT):
Erratic patterns and sleep deprivation may worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder. IPSRT is a type of psychotherapy. It aims to help people with bipolar disorder to:
- Maintain a regular routine.
- Adopt good sleep habits.
- Learn how to solve problems that interrupt your sleep.
IPSRT, in addition to your prescribed medications for bipolar disorder, may help to reduce the number of manic and depressive episodes you have.
Research indicates that alternative treatments may be helpful for bipolar disorder when they are used with traditional treatments. However, very little research about these treatments has been done. Alternative treatments shouldn’t replace your current treatment or medication for bipolar disorder. Always talk to your doctor before starting an alternative treatment.
Certain supplements may cause side effects with any medications you may be taking or may affect other conditions that you have. Bipolar disorder requires lifelong treatment, even when patients with the disorder are feeling better. However, some lifestyle considerations can help to make the condition more manageable.