If you’ve noticed an unpredictable pattern of high and low moods in your life that seems abnormal compared to your friends and family’s experiences, you may have suspected bipolar disorder is at play.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re wondering whether you or a loved one needs to seek professional treatment for bipolar disorder.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, is a mood disorder characterized by extreme changes in mood, energy level and behavior. There’s actually more than one subtype of bipolar disorder, but they each share many overlapping symptoms.
The main feature of bipolar disorder is alternating periods of extreme lows and extreme highs. The extreme lows involve depression, lethargy, decreased pleasure and poor focus. The extreme highs may include experiences of euphoria, high energy and powerful emotions. These episodes are called “mania” or “hypomania,” hypomania being less intense.
In addition to the two main subtypes of bipolar disorder, bipolar I and bipolar II, cyclothymic disorders are also categorized with these. Other conditions that are induced by drug or medical factors may be included in this category of mood disorders.
Bipolar I: at least one manic episode that occurs before or after a hypomanic or depressive episode. Sometimes, manic may escalate to psychosis, generally resulting in hospitalization
Bipolar II: at least one hypomanic episode and one depressive episode, but never an experience of mania
Cyclothymic disorder: at least two years of alternating hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms
While a diagnosis of cyclothymic disorder doesn’t require full-blown episodes, changes in mood over a longer period of time are common. As a result, this disorder is often misdiagnosed as major depression.
Everyone goes through highs and lows in life, but in individuals with bipolar disorder, these highs and lows will cause functional interference, making work, school, relationships or daily life feel impossible to manage.
A manic or hypomanic episode may be observed using the following signs of bipolar disorder. Each episode tends to last more than one week.
Elevated mood or heightened irritability
Intense emotions last the majority of the day
Decreased need for sleep
Feeling jumpy, bubbly, positive or wired
Difficulty concentrating (racing thoughts)
Feeling invincible or unreasonably confident
Working on several projects at once (attempting to multitask)
Poor decision making (impulsive decision making or ignoring consequences)
A depressive episode is characterized by the following signs of bipolar disorder:
Sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness
Having no interest in activities that were previously enjoyable
Feeling numb or apathetic
Significant weight loss or decrease in appetite
Sleeping too little or getting excessive sleep
Feeling excessive or unreasonable guilt
Slowed speech or movement
Struggling to focus or complete tasks
It’s common to notice depressive symptoms, but ignore them for the sake of continuing the perks of high energy and high productivity during a manic episode. For this reason, a person with bipolar disorder may struggle to remain engaged in treatment.
How is bipolar disorder treated?
Like most mental health disorders, bipolar disorder is treated with a combination of therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. However, the first step is receiving an accurate diagnosis for your specific condition.
Once you have a diagnosis, it may be necessary to begin with inpatient therapy, depending on the severity of the manic or depressive episode. Hospitalization is sometimes necessary, for example, if psychosis is reached or a manic period causes exhaustion, dehydration or syncope.
In addition to inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment is often recommended for long-term recovery, sometimes accompanied with mood stabilizers, antipsychotics or antidepressants.
How do I know if I have bipolar disorder?
Even once you understand the types of bipolar disorder, you may still have trouble combing out which diagnosis is most accurate. That’s why it’s crucial to get the opinion of a trained professional. Effective treatment will depend on a proper diagnosis.
If you think you or someone you love may be living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, it’s time to reach out for care. Tapestry offers a variety of treatment programs so you can start living a life full of meaning without compromising what makes you, you. Call 828-490-4032 today.