Spirituality In Context To Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes changes in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. People with bipolar disorder experience intense emotional states that typically occur during distinct periods of days to weeks, called mood episodes. These mood episodes are categorized as manic/hypomanic, such as abnormally happy or irritable mood or depressive mood. People with bipolar disorder generally have periods of neutral mood as well. When treated, people with bipolar disorder can lead full and productive lives.
The word “manic” describes the times when someone with bipolar disorder feels overly excited and confident. These feelings can also involve irritability and impulsiveness, or reckless decision-making. About half of people during mania can also have delusions or hallucinations. “Hypomania” describes milder symptoms of mania, in which someone does not have delusions or hallucinations, and their high symptoms do not interfere with their everyday life.
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.
Spiritual experiences and bipolar disorder
A sudden increase in thinking about, or practicing spiritual or religious activities, can be a symptom of bipolar disorder. Increased spiritual experiences, often called ‘hyper-religiosity,’ can be a symptom of mania or psychosis. Therefore, many people living with bipolar disorder wonder whether their spiritual experiences are “real” or a symptom of their illness. Problems separating spiritual experiences from psychotic symptoms may lead to misdiagnosis, which could be harmful if, on one hand, people get unnecessary treatments, or, on the other, if a manic episode continues untreated.
Different cultural factors also determine whether spiritual experiences are seen as a sign of illness or not. Having visions or hearing voices may be admired in one culture and seen as a sign of severe illness in another. Because of this, the psychiatric diagnostic manual (the DSM) has separate ways of thinking about spiritual problems, so as to not turn spiritual beliefs into medical problems. At the same time, it acknowledges that symptoms of illness can have a spiritual content that may need to be explored.
Treatment for bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder is treated with three main classes of medication: mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and, while their safety and effectiveness for the condition are sometimes controversial, antidepressants.
Typically, treatment entails a combination of at least one mood-stabilizing drug and/or atypical antipsychotic, plus psychotherapy. The most widely used drugs for the treatment of bipolar disorder include lithium carbonate and valproic acid. Lithium carbonate can be remarkably effective in reducing mania, although doctors still do not know precisely how it works.
Lithium may also prevent the recurrence of depression, but its value seems greater against mania than depression; therefore, it is often given in conjunction with other medicines known to have greater value for depression symptoms, sometimes including antidepressants.
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