Bipolar Disorder is often misunderstood
It is a type of mood disorder. It can be similar to Depression, except that with Bipolar Disorder the brain does not regulate regular ups and downs. A “normal” state of mind is typically not seen. The cycles go from Mania (a state of feeling very excited or irritable) to periods of Depression (feeling down and sad). These episodes (or cycles) can happen often or infrequent. A quick cycle would be viewed as every day and infrequent cycles can be as much as years apart. This disorder can show up in children or adults. When an adult is having a manic cycle, they can act risky and euphoric. Young people might come across irritable.
Bipolar Disorder and other mental disorders should only be diagnosed by a medical doctor, clinical psychologist, or another trained health provider. This should be after the professional has spent some time with the person and has completed a full evaluation. Diagnoses are complicated with many nuances. Please do not attempt to diagnose someone based on the symptoms you read in magazines or on the internet. If you are concerned, speak to a trained health professional. It’s common for someone to determine themselves Bipolar as kind of a catch-all self-assessment. The diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder has been thrown around way too loosely in the last decade. Only a professional should make this determination.
There are two types of Bipolar Disorder:
Bipolar I Disorder: The person must experience at least one manic episode, but they will probably also have some depressive episodes.
Bipolar II Disorder: The teenager or adult must experience at least one depressive episode and one hypomanic episode. A hypomanic episode is a less-severe version of a manic episode. See below for als. bit more clarification.
These look similar to the depressive episodes experienced when someone has Depression. They occur nearly every day for at least two weeks and can include:
- Feeling sad and low most of the day
- Losing interest and pleasure in most activities
- Losing or gaining a considerable amount of weight
- Eating a lot more or a lot less than usual
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping all the time
- Restlessness or a sense of moving in slow motion that is noticeable to others
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Feeling worthless or guilty for no reason
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
- Manic Episodes
These occur most of the day, nearly every day for at least one week. They can include:
- Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity (e.g., acting like they are superior to others)
- Little need for sleep (e.g., feeling rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
- Need to continue talking – rapid and sometimes confused speech
- Having too many thoughts at once, feeling a pressure of thoughts in their head
- Acting distracted or unable to focus
- Increase in goal-directed activity (e.g. either socially, at school or work)
- Restlessness, although the goal he or she is working toward may not make sense or be logical
- Excessive involvement in risky activities with painful consequences
- Expensive shopping sprees, foolish business investments, drug use, sexual promiscuity
- In severe cases, people can experience hallucinations (i.e., hearing or seeing something that isn’t actually there)
- Delusions (i.e., believing something that isn’t true even when confronted with proof)
These are similar to manic episodes and last for four days or longer. They don’t significantly interfere with the person’s ability to their life. Because hypomanic symptoms are less severe, they don’t always seem to be much of a problem. This can be true even when there is an obvious departure from their behavior. A person may be very productive and accomplish a lot of things during this Hypomania, they can also become involved in risky behavior or activities that result with bad outcomes.
These symptoms are much more severe and last longer than the regular ups and downs of life. Although most people’s moods change when they experience positive or negative events, the moods swings of someone with Bipolar Disorder occur without any external provocation and are not easily controlled by the person. Some individuals will experience a ‘mixed state’, which is Mania and Depression at the same time.
For many people with Bipolar Disorder, there may be periods of time (lasting from days to years) where the mood is under better control and more likely to stay within “usual” limits. This is especially true if the person is being successfully treated for the illness.
* Statistics are sourced from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition.
Are certain people at risk
We all have our ups and downs, but with bipolar disorder, these peaks and valleys are more severe. The symptoms of bipolar disorder can hurt your job and school performance, damage your relationships and disrupt your daily life. And although it’s treatable, many people don’t recognize the warning signs and get the help they need. Since bipolar disorder tends to worsen without treatment, it’s important to learn what the symptoms look like. Recognizing the problem is the first step to getting better.
Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) causes serious shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior—from the highs of mania on one extreme to the lows of depression on the other. More than just a fleeting good or bad mood, the cycles of bipolar disorder last for days, weeks, or months. And unlike ordinary mood swings, the mood changes of bipolar disorder are so intense that they interfere with your ability to function.
During a manic episode, a person might impulsively quit a job, charge up huge amounts on credit cards, or feel rested after sleeping two hours. During a depressive episode, the same person might be too tired to get out of bed, and full of self-loathing and hopelessness over being unemployed and in debt. The extreme highs and lows of mania and depression can hurt your job and school performance, damage your relationships and disrupt your daily life. But you’re not powerless when it comes to bipolar disorder.
The causes of bipolar disorder aren’t completely understood, but it often appears to be hereditary. The first manic or depressive episode of bipolar disorder usually occurs in the teenage years or early adulthood. The symptoms can be subtle and confusing; many people with bipolar disorder are overlooked or misdiagnosed—resulting in unnecessary suffering. But with proper treatment and support, you can lead a rich and fulfilling life.
A loved one in your life
If you have someone in your life with Bipolar Disorder encourage them not to take drugs or alcohol. Taking drugs or drinking alcohol can be highly toxic to someone with Bipolar Disorder. These substances can make it harder to treat the illness or even cause it to come back when it has been successfully treated. A good healthy diet and 8 or 9 hours of sleep with also be helpful. Of course, always follow the directions of a doctor or medical professional.
Be patient. Sometimes it can be frustrating when the person you care about acts differently than he or she used to.