What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes sporadic shifts in mood, concentration, and energy. Previously called, “Manic-Depressive disorder,” this mental illness will produce shifts between high energy mood states (mania) and low energy mood states (depression). Both the intensity and rapid shift of mood swings negatively impact daily functioning, well-being, relationships, and safety.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar I is characterized by a significant manic episode and a major depressive episode. Symptoms of a manic episode (mania) can include high energy, lack of sleep, euphoria, racing thoughts, exaggerated sense of confidence, irritability, and sometimes psychosis. For a Bipolar I diagnosis to be established the manic episode must last at least 7 days or become so intense it requires hospitalization. The depressive episode must last for at least 2 weeks. Sometimes, symptoms of mania and depression can occur at the same time. This is called a “mixed episode.”
Bipolar II is characterized by a lower level manic episode, called “hypomania.” The depressive episode of Bipolar II is usually about the same or worse than Bipolar I. The depressive symptoms can include fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, overwhelming sadness, poor concentration, loss of interest or pleasure, hopelessness, and thoughts of suicide.
Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)
Cyclothymia is characterized by multiple hypomanic episodes and depressive symptoms for at least 2 years (1 year for children and teens). Symptoms do not meet the criteria for a full blown manic or depressive episode.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Depending on the severity of a manic episode or depressive episode, people typically suffer from these symptoms:
Manic Episode and Hypomania
Mania and hypomania are 2 separate types of episodes that share the same symptoms. Mania is more noticeable and more severe than hypomania in both intensity and impact on daily functioning. In many cases hypomania begins and then becomes full blown mania. A diagnosis of a manic or hypomanic episode includes at least 3 of these symptoms:
- Decreased need for sleep
- Racing thoughts
- Increased energy
- Euphoria and exaggerated self-confidence
- Hyperverbal (fast talking)
- Feeling wired or jumpy
- Feeling unusually important
- High risk taking – recklessness with money, food, substances, and sex.
Depressive episodes are characterized by symptoms that include:
- Lack of interest in hobbies or pleasurable things
- Low sex drive
- Loss of appetite
- Overwhelming negative thoughts
- Increased anger and irritability
- Excessive sleeping
- Difficulty with concentration
- Substance abuse
- Thoughts of suicide
Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder
Diagnosing Bipolar disorder early on is incredibly important, because early intervention allows time to find appropriate treatment and reduces needless suffering and impairment. If you or someone you know displays any of the symptoms listed above then it is important to seek out a doctor or a mental health professional such as a psychotherapist or psychologist. Licensed and trained professionals are able to collect important information such as family history, medical history, personal report of symptoms through the assessment process to determine a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder.
Treating Bipolar Disorder
After an appropriate diagnosis is made it is important to move ahead with a two-pronged approach: medication management and psychotherapy. A doctor, usually a psychiatrist, will prescribe medication specific to the precise diagnosis to allow for better mood stability and reduction in severity of symptoms. Psychotherapy, which is a talk therapy, is best suited for Bipolar disorder. Regular psychotherapy allows those who suffer from Bipolar disorder to become more aware of their own symptoms, take action, and develop strong coping skills. Treatment of Bipolar disorder is most successful when both medication management and regular psychotherapy are involved.
Living with Bipolar Disorder
Many people can live productive and healthy lives with Bipolar disorder, but it is a lifelong mental illness. People you may know have Bipolar disorder and you would never be able to tell. Depending on the diagnosis, severity of symptoms, and adherence to treatment the outcomes are optimistic. Thankfully, as mental health disorders and treatment are becoming less stigmatized, people are seeking help. Early intervention is key.
If you or someone you know is suffering from the symptoms of Bipolar disorder contact us today and one of our specialists will be ready to help!