Bipolar disorder is a serious condition that affects anywhere from three to ten percent of adults in America. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, bipolar is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world, putting it right up there with diabetes and heart disease.
It is a lifelong condition that is, in most cases, treated very effectively with medications and other forms of cognitive therapy. However, it can be dangerous if left undiagnosed and untreated, leading to significant challenges that can affect just about every aspect of life. It may make it difficult to hold a job, and personal relationships can become challenging. The important thing is to recognize its potential and seek treatment as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Though it is characterized by extreme behavior and polarizing mood swings that range from deep depression to manic, emotional highs, people with bipolar don’t always experience it the same way. The symptoms can be unpredictable, causing great distress to the individual and others in their life.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can include one or many of the following:
Though mania and hypomania are different in the way they present, they have the same symptoms, for the most part. Hypomania is less severe, but can still cause significant problems at work, at school, and in life in general.
A manic or hypomanic episode includes three or more of these characteristics:
- Abnormally jumpy
- Increased energy and agitation
- Euphoria, characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-confidence
- Grandiose ideas about one’s own power and abilities
- Unusually talkative to the point where others can’t keep up
- Thoughts racing
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Risky, impulsive behavior (promiscuity, gambling, overspending)
- Severe cases may present delusions or hallucinations
A major depressive episode will cause notable challenges in completing routine day-to-day tasks and activities. It may be difficult to find the energy to go to work or school or to participate in social activities.
A major depressive episode is determined if the individual shows five or more of these symptoms:
- Depressed mood, feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable
- Loss of interest in the things they usually love to do
- Sudden loss or increase of appetite resulting in weight loss or weight gain
- Oversleeping or insomnia
- Slow to respond to stimuli
- Low energy or extreme fatigue
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Excessive feelings of inappropriate guilt
- Inability to think, concentrate, or make decisions
- Suicidal thoughts, talk, or attempts
The different types of bipolar disorder
Bipolar I is the most commonly diagnosed type of bipolar disorder. Characterized by mixed episodes—both manic and depressive, the individual generally experiences more manic than depressive episodes but may cycle between the two.
Bipolar II does not generally have extreme manic episodes and instead is identified more by periods of severe depression and hypomania.
Cyclothymia is a milder form of bipolar characterized by cyclic mood swings that are far less severe or long-lasting than a full-blown manic or major depressive episode.
Mixed episodes refers to an individual that has symptoms of both polarities, usually in rapid sequence or rapid cycling.
Co-occurring bipolar disorder
In some cases, symptoms of bipolar disorder can be present because they share characteristics with other mental health conditions. For instance, borderline personality disorder, and even ADHD share many traits with bipolar, such as extreme mood swings, lack of impulse control, inability to focus, euphoria, and depression.
Additionally, abusing certain types of drugs, like methamphetamine and others, can cause very similar manifestations.
While there may be mental health issues present, it is not always black-and-white when it comes to diagnosing bipolar. This is why it is so critical to obtain a diagnosis from a qualified health professional who is well-versed in mental health, and bipolar in particular. Having a proper diagnosis ensures that the treatment and medications prescribed are appropriate for the individual and may help them get their life back on track much more quickly.
Other behavioral conditions may manifest or worsen with bipolar. These conditions include eating disorders, alcohol or drug abuse, attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD), or chronic health issues like endocrine disorders (thyroid problems, for example), heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. If these issues are allowed to continue untreated, they can present a significant barrier to successful treatment.
Knowing when to see a doctor
In many cases, the person who has bipolar disorder will not recognize the symptoms. They won’t realize how much their emotional instability is affecting those around them, and they may blame it all on outside influences.
Some may actually enjoy the euphoria that comes with their manic episodes and not want them to end. Unfortunately, these episodes are often followed by a severe depression that may last for days at a time, leaving the individual in distress and possibly leading to a range of financial, legal, or relationship problems in their day-to-day life.
If you or a loved one is experiencing signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder or any other mental health issue, it is critical that you see a doctor right away. Unfortunately, bipolar does not resolve itself; however, many highly effective interventions can control the symptoms and help you get back to a happy, productive life.
When to seek emergency care
One of the biggest dangers of bipolar disorder is suicidal thoughts and behaviors. If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, call 911 immediately or go directly to an emergency room. If you don’t have ready access to emergency services, there are suicide hotlines, both local and national, that can help you through the crisis.
The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, and it can be accessed from anywhere, any time of the day or night.
Treatments for Bipolar Disorder
Fortunately, many therapies and interventions treat bipolar disorder effectively. The trouble is, many people do not receive a diagnosis until they are in crisis. Statistically, only 25 percent of people receive an accurate diagnosis within three years of seeking help.
Once diagnosed, however, success rates are encouraging, with up to 85 percent of patients reporting a positive outcome.
Frontline interventions include medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, and psychotherapy, but treatment protocols vary significantly from person to person.
Medication therapy for bipolar
Medication therapy can be frustrating for some, as it often takes some trial-and-error to achieve balance. Adjustments are made along the way and often involve a combination of medications to address the symptoms.
One of the more frustrating things that patients report about bipolar medication is the side effects they have to endure. Fatigue, weight gain, nausea, tremors, diarrhea, kidney problems, loss of appetite, and a feeling of emotional numbness are often reported. Because of this, many who struggle with bipolar may attempt to stop taking the medication in an attempt to feel better. Unfortunately, this usually lands them back in the same crisis that they were experiencing before they sought treatment.
Though there are new, advanced medications available that report fewer side effects, it’s really about what works best to manage symptoms. Not all drugs will work well for all people, so it is critical to monitor symptoms and follow the advice of your doctor until you find the right balance.
Bipolar treatment Long Beach
Are you or a loved one struggling with symptoms of bipolar disorder? Bipolar treatment in Long Beach is just a call away. Reach out today to get started or to learn more about how we can help.