Bipolar disorder continues to be one of the mental health disorders that laypeople understand worst. People casually use the term “bipolar” to describe things that change quickly, like the weather. However, the disorder is marked by long periods of depression and long periods of mania. The moods do not change rapidly. Bipolar disorder is a serious illness that requires treatment to improve a person’s quality of life.
What is Cyclothymic Disorder?
The mental health profession has strict guidelines for diagnosing bipolar disorder. As such, some people experience both depression and mania, yet the symptoms fail to meet the criteria for diagnosis. These people may have cyclothymic disorder. The symptoms and recommended therapies for cyclothymic disorder are similar to bipolar disorder.
Two Types of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder has two distinct sub-types: bipolar 1 and bipolar 2.
People with bipolar 1 typically have periods of mania that last at least one week and depressive episodes that last at least two weeks. People may also have bipolar 1 if the symptoms don’t last quite that long, but they are so intense that the person needs inpatient therapy.
When people have bipolar 2, they have shorter periods of both mania and depression. While the symptoms may not last as long, people with bipolar 2 still deserve and need professional intervention.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
The first step in seeking help for bipolar disorder is often recognizing the symptoms. The signs of bipolar disorder vary depending on what stage the person is in–manic or depressive.
- Feeling irritated with anyone who tries to calm them down
- Unusually high energy levels
- Taking big, unnecessary risks
- Inability to calm racing thoughts
- Thoughts of suicide
- Low energy
- Having no interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Feeling hopeless
- Sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite
Testing for Bipolar Disorder
Doctors cannot perform any physical tests to see if someone has bipolar disorder. Instead, the diagnostic process includes telling a mental health professional about symptoms. Counselors use clinical interviews and standardized surveys to determine if a person has bipolar disorder.
Unfortunately, the diagnostic process for bipolar disorder can feel invasive. However, it is the crucial first step in recovery. Our highly skilled professionals treat patients with respect and compassion.
Co-existing Conditions with Bipolar Disorder
People with bipolar disorder often live with other mental health disorders as well. Such patients may also have anxiety, ADHD, psychosis, or substance abuse disorder. Mental health professionals test for many of these disorders at the time someone seeks treatment for bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder Treatments
Treatment for bipolar disorder often includes talk therapy and/or medication. Patients who have extreme symptoms may require inpatient therapy until they are safe.
CBT & Other Talk Therapies
The three most common types of talk therapy for bipolar disorder are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT), and family-focused therapy.
During CBT, therapists help patients find what situations trigger their symptoms and how they can better deal with those issues. Similarly, IPSRT helps people with bipolar disorder understand the social interactions, biological rhythms, and emotional reactions that cause depression and mania.
In family-focused therapy, the patient’s loved ones learn how to best help the person with bipolar disorder. They all develop healthy coping mechanisms together. Each of these types of therapies can be useful as part of a treatment plan for bipolar disorder. Some people may need a combination of these therapies.
Medication Options for Bipolar Disorder
It takes patience and persistence to find the right combination of medications for bipolar disorder. Options that can help include antidepressants, sleep aids, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics.
Additional Treatments for Bipolar Disorder
Some people with bipolar disorder benefit from Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). However, ECT can cause serious side effects, including the loss of memory. As such, we only recommend ECT when other interventions have failed.
Life charts present a safe alternative treatment for bipolar disorder. With these charts, patients keep track of what happened in their days, the medications they took, and the symptoms they experiences. This can help patients identify patterns and create healthier cycles.
How Common is Bipolar Disorder?
Approximately 2.6 percent of the adults in the United States live with bipolar disorder. Because professionals sometimes disagree on the diagnostic criteria for minors, it’s not clear how many teens and children have the disorder. The rate may be as high as 750,000 minors living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
Risk Factors for Bipolar Disorder
Research suggests that there may be a genetic link to bipolar disorder, but more studies need to be done. People who have biological family members with bipolar disorder seem more likely to develop the illness than others.