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Complications of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder patients, especially those with type II or cyclothymic disorder often experience major depression, anxiety and panic disorders, as well as phobias. Bipolar disorder in children is sometimes mistaken for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These two conditions can sometimes co-occur and one study showed that 65% of bipolar adolescents were also eligible for ADHD. Both conditions are most common in white males, and patients with both conditions experience the most severe symptoms. According to some scientists, it is possible that the two conditions are just variants of one and the same disease.

One of the potential dangers of living with bipolar disease is the risk of suicide. This is particularly true for medically unattended patients. Mixed mania and depression are the periods of highest risk when 10-15% of bipolar disorder I patients actually commit suicide. Research shows that patients with bipolar disorder II and anxiety disorder face even greater risk of suicide, which is even higher than in patients with rapid cycling (a more serious form of bipolar disorder). Children with bipolar disease are more affected by the condition than adults, especially in early and pre-adolescence period, and are at higher risk of commiting suicide, since staying unwell for longer time, they can experience mixed mania and multiple and frequent cycles. Mental flexibility, the speed at which information is processed, and short and long-term memory may be the problems that bipolar patients are faced with. Whether biologically based or a result of used medications, they are particularly present during manic episodes.

Manic phases in small number of people with bipolar disorder are marked by their tendency to get highly productive and creative. Still, it is more often the case that patients in this phase get angry, violent, promiscuous, paranoid and reckless, especially with money, which is then followed by the depression stage, guilt and low self-esteem. Apart from smoking cigarettes, as a form of self-medication suggested by some doctors, 60% of bipolar disease patients tend to abuse alcohol and drugs. The consequences of such behaviors affect the families and loved ones of the patients, who are often in denial of this condition, just like the patients.

Physical conditions are sometimes associated with mental illnesses. Bipolar patients often suffer from a wide range of conditions, such as diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, heart and lung diseases, skin infections, hypertension, hyperthyroidism and even cancer. This is due to the medications which are used to treat the bipolar condition, and the fact they don’t seek medical care. Still the risk for these conditions is higher with bipolar patients. For example, diabetes is found three times more in bipolar patients than in the rest of the population, due to obesity, because estimated 25% of patients are overweight. Elevated blood pressure leading to heart conditions is also prevalent with such patients. Patients with bipolar II disorder are more susceptible to headaches compared to those with bipolar I while hypothyroidism may appear as a result of lithium use, which is used to treat bipolar disorders. In women however, low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism) are more common without any particular association to the drugs used, making it a potential risk factor for bipolar disorder. 

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