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What is Bipolar Psychosis?

By Lori Smith
Updated May 17, 2024
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Bipolar psychosis is a complication of bipolar disorder, which is a mental condition classified by abrupt, extreme episodes of mania that may follow periods of deep-seated depression. Not everyone with the disorder will suffer from psychological neurosis, however. When it does occur, it usually happens during a manic or depressive phase of the illness. The patient afflicted with the disorder may completely lose touch with reality and normal reasoning skills are hampered. When a mental illness such as bipolar psychosis is present, hallucinations or delusional thinking generally occurs. The psychotic symptoms can rapidly escalate to extreme, often dangerous, behavior.

If medical intervention is not provided soon after the psychosis begins, it may be difficult to combat, especially since the person often becomes resistant to treatment and the condition may quickly spiral out of control. An individual may believe he or she has extraordinary powers, such as the ability to fly, and may attempt to do outrageous things such as jump off the roof of a building. This example is just one of the many ways where the delusions have the ability to quickly become a serious situation with very little advance warning.

The cause of mood disorders such as bipolar psychosis is often attributed to genetics. A patient with a parent who suffers from the disorder is more likely to be afflicted with it than someone whose family members do not suffer from psychiatric instability. Sometimes, environmental factors or a traumatic event that occurs early during a child’s formative years can result in the condition. Regardless of the cause, early diagnosis is often the key to stabilizing the patient and controlling unpredictable behavior.

Prior to the 1950s, bipolar psychosis was not well understood by medical professionals. Patients who exhibited psychotic behavior were usually admitted into a psychiatric hospital and given powerful sedatives, often rendering them into a catatonic state. Restraint devices were frequently used to securely strap them to hospital beds or wheelchairs. The focus was usually on containing the individual rather than treating him or her. In the mid-1950s, the advent of the drug chlorpromazine was incorporated into treatment plans and care for patients diagnosed with mental illness was revolutionized. The medication generally improved the quality of life for the individuals who suffered from the disorder.

Since then, different types of antipsychotic medication have been used for the treatment of bipolar psychosis. While the medicine is often effective, there are several undesirable side-effects that may preclude its use and make it difficult for the patient to willingly submit to treatment. In fact, some of the side-effects may continue to affect the patient even after medication is discontinued. An example of such symptom is the repetitive uncontrolled movement of a patient's tongue or mouth, known as tardive dyskinesia.

Other serious side-effects of antipsychotic medicine may include renal failure, irregular blood pressure or tachycardia, an abnormally rapid heartbeat. Psychiatrists will often discontinue the medication if these troublesome symptoms present because of the potential for fatality. Many times, alternative drugs will be considered in order to stabilize the patient.

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Discussion Comments
By Ruggercat68 — On Sep 04, 2014

I have to admit I'm puzzled by the sudden rise of bipolar disease diagnosis. I knew some people who were described as manic depressive, but I think they were diagnosed as bipolar later. One woman I knew was found wandering down a busy highway naked while suffering from bipolar psychosis. She was in the bipolar mania phase and hadn't slept for a few days. She told the police that she was running away from some mafia hitmen.

She told me later that when she had an episode like that, she honestly believed it was happening. She said her doctors suspected she had bipolar schizophrenia, which meant she could also become extremely paranoid if she didn't take her medication. She's now in a bipolar support group.

By Inaventu — On Sep 04, 2014

I had a friend in college I believe was bipolar. She had a lot of mood swings, not just the usual good day/bad day kind of thing. If she was on a high, she was the life of the party and wouldn't slow down. When she was on a low, she was practically suicidal. I'm not sure if she was ever properly diagnosed or not.

One time she called me in a panic. She was at a large shopping mall several cities away and she said she was convinced there was a gang of clowns following her. I didn't know what to say at the time except to assure her those clowns were not real. She said they felt real to her, and she had to run out of the mall to get away from them. I'm pretty sure this was a case of bipolar psychosis.

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