WHAT IF I HAVE… Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar is a mood disorder which is also known as manic-depressive disorder. Bipolar disorder causes unusual shifts in mood, activity and energy level. The mood swings between depression and mania are very serious and can become very risky and dangerous.
There are four basic types of bipolar disorders which all carry the mood swings. These mood swings can take a person from periods of extremely up, energized and elevated moods (manic) to very sad, down and hopeless periods (depressive).
Bipolar I Disorder: When severe manic episodes last seven or more days to a point that the person needs medical attention. Depressive episodes typically last around two weeks as well. In this phase, a person may have both manic and depressive symptoms together.
Bipolar II Disorder: This is defined as Bipolar II when a depressive episode is followed by a hypomanic episode but not a full manic one. When a manic episode is not full-blown strength, it is called a hypomanic episode.
Cyclothymic Disorder: This may also be called cyclothymia. When number of periods of hypomanic symptoms as well as number of periods of depressive symptoms last at least 2 years (could be shorter in children and younger adults) when the symptoms do not meet the requirements of hypomanic episode or depressive episode.
Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders: These are the times that there are symptoms, but they do not match to any of the three categories above.
Symptoms and Signs: Periods of unusual behaviors and intense emotions together with changes in sleep are some of the signs of bipolar disorder. These unusual behaviors and distinct changes are called mood episodes. With manic episodes people feel very high and elated with lots of energy. They may have trouble sleeping, talk really fast and might be feeling agitated. During manic episodes, people do a lot of risky business like spend all of their money on things they do not need. With depressive episodes, people feel sad and hopeless. They usually have very little energy and they cannot enjoy anything. People during depressive episodes feel like they are worried, and they cannot concentrate on anything.
They even may think or plan suicide during depressive episodes. It is very possible to have both manic and depressive symptoms and signs together. Treatment for bipolar disorder consists of both medication and therapy. Even people with severe forms of bipolar disorder benefit from treatment.
Doctors use many different types of medicine to treat bipolar disorder. Certain medications like antipsychotics treat mania and certain medications like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) treat depression. Mood stabilizers are medicines that treat highs (mania) and lows (depression) of bipolar disorder. Mood stabilizers helps to continue regular social life without interruption from manic or depression.
Together with medication, psychotherapy can be very effective in treatment for bipolar disorder. Psychotherapists can provide support, guidance, education and the ability to manage symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Family-Focused Therapy and Psychoeducation especially are amongst effective therapies in today’s bipolar treatment.
Alternative Treatment
Electroconvulsive Therapy(ECT): People with severe bipolar disorder may benefit from ECT if they have not been able to recover with other treatment. ECT is used especially if other medications are not effective, or people cannot take those medications for specific reasons. ECT may have some short side effects like disorientation, memory loss or confusion, the benefits may still be more than the side effects.
Sleep Medications: Since people with bipolar disorder have trouble sleeping, this treatment is very helpful.
It is an important part of recovery to learn how to improve overall health. Practicing self-care, exercising regularly, having a treatment plan, engaging in social activities with friends and family, reading and getting educated are always important part of your recovery.
In case of CRISIS, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255).
Talk to someone who can help you right away or make an appointment with a mental health counselor. Call your medical doctor, they can guide you in time of crisis. Or please go to the nearest hospital or emergency room. During a crisis, do not stay alone or try to handle your episodes alone.
Disclaimer: The comments and suggestions in this article are intended to be helpful in developing a treatment plan with the guidance of a physician. Please consult a medical doctor about which options would be best for you. Do not take any supplements or medicine without discussing the effects with your physician. The author is not responsible for any affects or the effectiveness of these treatments.
Elif Angel Raynor, MS., MIBA.
Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern
[email protected]
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