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Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness) is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings that include emotional highs and lows. Bipolar disorder causes the individual to feel unusual shifts in mood, energy, concentration, activity levels, and the ability to sustain daily functioning. Learning the facts about bipolar disorder is crucial if you want to understand the illness and ultimately know how to help those suffering. It is important to recognize no two people with bipolar disorder have the same experience. Still, some commonalities and symptoms can assist in diagnosing bipolar disorder and treating it.

There are three different types of Bipolar Disorder. All three types have similar symptomology in the way they affect energy, mood, and activity levels.

There are three different types of Bipolar Disorder. All three types have similar symptomology in the way they affect energy, mood, and activity levels.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Symptoms of bipolar disorder
Major Depressive episode

The mood swings associated with Bipolar Disorder often range from periods of extreme joy, irritability, or have very high energy levels to then shifting dramatically to feelings of severe hopelessness, apathy, and depression. The periods of elation are known as manic episodes, while the periods of despair are referred to as episodes of depression.

For people who have BD, mood swings may be rare or occur multiple times a year. Most people diagnosed with BD do experience some emotional symptoms between serious episodes; some do not. BD is a lifelong condition that can be diagnosed at any age. Individuals who develop bipolar disorder typically begin to show symptoms in their teenage years or early 20’s. Signs can change and vary over time.

For people who have BD, occurrences of mood swings may be rare or occur multiple times a year. Most people diagnosed with BD do experience some emotional symptoms between serious episodes some do not. BD is a lifelong condition that can be diagnosed at any age. Individuals who develop bipolar disorder typically begin to show symptoms in their teenage years or early 20’s. Symptoms can change and vary overtime.

Mania and Hypomania

Mania and hypomania are periods where the person feels elated and full of energy. Hypomania refers to a less severe or intense version of these symptoms. Both episodes can include these symptoms:

  • Abnormally upbeat or jumpy
  • Increased irritability or agitation
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Abnormally upbeat or jumpy
  • Increased irritability or agitation
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Engaging in risky behaviors

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Major Depressive Episode

A major depressive episode includes these symptoms:

  • Depressed mood, feeling sad, tearful, or empty.
  • Lack of pleasure in all activities
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much.
  • Loss of energy and fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Indecisiveness
  • Thoughts, plans, or intentions of suicide

Bipolar I Disorder

Having had at least one manic episode that began with or was followed by a major depressive episode. In some cases, mania can trigger a psychological break from reality called psychosis.

Bipolar II Disorder

Having had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but never a manic episode.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Having had at least two years in adulthood of many periods of hypomania symptoms and depressive symptoms.

Other Types

Bipolar disorder can also be induced by drug and alcohol usage or due to certain physical illnesses such as multiple sclerosis or stroke.

Statistics

Although the symptoms of BD can be isolating and confusing, it is important to know that BD is a common mental illness. The World Health Organization lists the following statistics regarding BD.

  • According to The World Health Organization, bipolar disorder is one of the top three causes of hospitalization in people aged 15-44
  • It is estimated that 5% of the world’s population is on the bipolar spectrum, while just 1-2% are diagnosed.
  • Bipolar disorder is more common than you might think. Around 4.4% of US adults develop bipolar disorder at some time in their lives.
  • In adolescents, the prevalence of bipolar disorder is higher among females (3.3%) than in males (2.6%)
  • Bipolar is a recurring illness. More than 90% of people who experience a single manic episode will go on to have another.
  • Around 60-70% of manic or hypomanic episodes occur before or after a major depressive episode.
  • Treatment is successful in the majority of cases. Approximately 20-30% of people living with bipolar type I disorder and 15% of those with bipolar II disorder experience significant symptoms despite treatment compliance.
  • The average age of bipolar onset is 20 for both men and women, though the disorder can develop at any time.

Bipolar as a Co-Occurring Disorder

The National Alliance on Mental Health states that over half of the people with bipolar disorder (56%) have a history of illicit drug abuse. In comparison, 44% have abused or are dependent on alcohol. When BD co-occurs with addiction, the symptoms can be exacerbated. Certain drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines are known to increase and sometimes induce a state of mania and psychosis. Other substances such as opiates, marijuana, and alcohol serve as a depressant and increase negative side effects that way. Those that are dual diagnoses are at higher risk of alleviated complications and risk of overdose.

Treatment Plans for Bipolar Disorder

There are effective ways to treat, manage, and in some cases, eliminate the symptoms of BD. Some of the treatments used include;

  • Medications: Mood stabilizers, antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs can be used in the treatment of BD. If you are interested in getting help with medication, try reaching out to your local mental health professionals and providers.
  • Therapy: Different therapy modalities such as Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoeducation are used to help with treatment.
  • Alcohol Rehab, Drug Rehab, and other Treatment Programs: Entering into a residential or outpatient treatment center can be an effective and safe way to stabilize the symptoms caused by BD and other co-occurring diagnoses. It can be a great way to connect with others that share a common experience and combat isolation. There are many addiction treatments and mental health centers that treat BD.

The Light at The End of The Tunnel

If you, a family member, or someone else you love are struggling with the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and or a substance use disorder, it may be time to seek treatment and addiction recovery. The chaotic and debilitating symptoms of BD do not have to be the norm anymore. You are not alone, and we are here to help.

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