The term “bipolar” is a term that is thrown around some times when describing a moody person. But bipolar disorder is so much more than just being moody.
Bipolar is generally described as a specific type of mood disorder where individuals have severe mood swings that cycle from major depressive episodes to manic episodes.
A manic episode can be characterized with having racing thoughts, being unable to sleep, talking a lot, extreme irritability, periods of euphoria, and behaving in ways that show poor judgement.
Mood shifts can be a normal part of life caused by reactions to positive or negative events or experiences. They even can result from medical problems such as physical illness, diabetes, injuries, or hormone fluctuations.
Mood swings can be a combination of all those factors. These fluctuations can be considered normal unless they persist for a long time, are combined with other mental symptoms, interfere with the ability to function, or cause a great deal of distress.
Most people do not even know they have a bipolar disorder and can go misdiagnosed for years. Sometimes bipolar disorder gets confused with major depression and/or anxiety.
There are different types of bipolar disorders which the general population isn’t aware of. The following fall within the spectrum:
-Bipolar I Disorder is one of the most severe mental illnesses and may require hospitalization. This disorder affects about 1% of Americans. It is a lifelong illness once it begins and can develop in late adolescence or early adulthood.
People who have Bipolar I can experience severe depression lasting for months at a time followed by periods of manic episodes that can also last for several weeks or months.
-Bipolar II Disorder is a not as intense and involves milder episodes of hypomania that alternate with periods of severe depression.
-Cyclothymic Disorder is characterized by periods of hypomania that alternates with depression and are not as extensive or long-lasting as the previous two types.
Some individuals have rapid cycles between mania and depression within a week or even within a single day. Women appear to experience rapid cycling more than men do.
However, the only way a person can get diagnosed is if they go to a doctor for an assessment. The assessment will ask questions regarding the persons reasoning, memory, ability to express themselves, and their ability to maintain relationships.
If you are currently experiencing any symptoms that may cause you to believe you may have a bipolar disorder, please do not wait to see if it will go away on its own as it may inevitably get worse.
Before going to a doctor to determine whether or not you have a disorder, take notice of your current moods, your sleep schedule, your recent behavior, your speech, your energy and motivation levels, and your thinking patterns.
Treatment is available for those with bipolar disorders and may include the following:
-Medication such as mood stabilizers, anti-depression medicine, or anxiety medications.
-Psychotherapy/Counseling which includes talk therapy that uses cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT teaches people to change their thought patterns to replace negative thinking with a more constructive thought process.
-Lifestyle Changes that keeps a regular schedule, promotes healthy eating and exercise, incorporates relaxation techniques, gets plenty of rest and sleep, minimizes stressful situations, and avoids drugs and alcohol.
There is hope for those with bipolar disorders. By following a combination of the above-mentioned treatments, a person with a bipolar disorder can keep their symptoms under control and live productive and effective lives.
Written by: Dalma Vazquez-Wackt, MA, CRC, LPC