OPN bipolar disorder-1602510021882
The need for patients with bipolar disorder to get the right diagnosis has been emphasised by psychologists Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: As mental health issues continue to be in focus in a week that marked the World Mental Health Day, the need for patients with bipolar disorder to get the right diagnosis has been emphasised by psychologists, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

But few know what bipolar disorder means and how it differs from depression.

Dr. Mohamed Yousaf

According to Dr. Mohamed Yousaf, Specialist — Psychiatrist, Aster Clinic — Mutheena, “Bipolar Disorder (BD) is a mental health condition which causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression). It can be genetic. Symptoms of the disorder usually crop up during adolescence. The way it is different from depression is that in the case of BD, there is extreme mood swings. In the case of depression, there are only lows — no mood swings. The treatment varies too. For example, depression is treated with antidepressants while BD is treated with mood stabilisers.”

Causes of BD

Dr Yousaf said the disorder is caused to a chemical imbalance in the brain. The chemicals controlling brain functions called neurotransmitters like nor adrenalin, serotonin and dopamine are less. According to the specialist from Aster Clinic, symptoms of BD can worsen with age. “With age, a person may experience severe episodes and frequently.”

Chances of alcohol and drug dependence are more common with BD. “People with BD have an alcohol addiction and that could affect their job, family and social life. People with the disorder are also known to indulge in compulsive gambling.”

Dr Naresh Dhar

Dr Naresh Dhar, Psychiatrist, Prime Medical Centre in Dubai, said, “During depression one feels sad, a sense of loss of interest, disturbed sleep too. During mania, there will be excitement, irritation and poor judgement with disturbed sleep.” He said people with bipolar disorder and in the manic state can show a sense of grandiose. “Basically they will have a false grand opinion of themselves. They will have an elevated mood. They will have a feeling of being a person with a grand personality. They may splurge and spend a lot of money.”

Dr Karuna Anand

Dr Karuna Anand, consultant psychiatrist at Canadian Specialist Hospital Dubai, said there are four major categories of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I disorder, Bipolar II disorder, Cyclothymic disorder and bipolar disorder due to another medical or substance abuse. “COVID-19 has also left people with tremendous amount of stress and sleepless nights. It can trigger depression or hypomanic symptoms which along with the use of alcohol or other street drugs can exacerbate a bipolar-like disorder,” she said.

Because symptoms of bipolar disorder and medical conditions including substance use causing BD overlap, it’s important to see an experienced specialist, the doctors noted.

When should one go to a specialist for treatment?

Dr. Laila Mahmoud

Dr. Laila Mahmoud, Specialist Psychiatrist, Medcare Hospital Sharjah, said: “When he or she starts to feel high or more elevated than usual. When one has too much energy or sadness, sleep disturbances or suicidal thoughts. There are laboratory tests and radiological tests to test for the disorder and to exclude organic or medical causes such as hypo or hyperthyroidism, thyrotoxicosis anaemia, low vitamin D levels etc.”