Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings or episodes of mania and depression. These episodes can last for days, weeks, or even months and can significantly impact an individual’s daily functioning and overall quality of life.
During a manic episode, an individual may experience symptoms such as high energy levels, little need for sleep, racing thoughts, impulsivity, and inflated self-esteem. They may also engage in risky or reckless behavior, such as spending sprees, promiscuous behavior, or substance abuse.
During a depressive episode, an individual may experience symptoms such as low energy levels, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and thoughts of suicide.
Bipolar disorder can occur at any age, but it usually begins in the late teenage years or early adulthood. The cause of bipolar disorder is not fully understood, but research suggests that it may be related to a combination of genetic, biochemical, and environmental factors.
There are several different types of bipolar disorder, including:
- Bipolar I Disorder: characterized by manic or mixed episodes that last at least seven days, or by manic symptoms that are severe enough to require hospitalization. Depressive episodes also occur, but are not required for a diagnosis of bipolar I disorder.
- Bipolar II Disorder: characterized by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not full manic or mixed episodes.
- Cyclothymic Disorder (or Cyclothymia): characterized by a chronic pattern of hypomanic episodes and mild depressive episodes that last for at least two years (one year in children and adolescents)
- Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders: these categories include patterns of symptoms that do not meet the criteria for any of the above types but still cause significant distress or impairment.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder:
The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary widely among individuals, but typically include episodes of mania and depression.
Symptoms of a manic episode may include:
- Extremely high energy levels
- Reduced need for sleep
- Racing thoughts
- Inflated self-esteem
- Increased talkativeness
- Reckless or risky behavior
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Grandiose thinking
Symptoms of a depressive episode may include:
- Low energy levels
- Loss of interest in activities
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty in decision making
It’s important to note that symptoms can vary in severity and duration and that some individuals may experience both manic and depressive symptoms simultaneously (mixed episodes) or have manic or depressive symptoms in between the episodes (partial remission). Also, some people may not have any manic symptoms but only have depression episodes (unipolar depression) but it is still considered a type of bipolar disorder.
Testing for Bipolar Disorder:
- Be open and honest with your healthcare provider: In order for your healthcare provider to make an accurate diagnosis, it’s important to be open and honest about your symptoms, history, and any other relevant information.
- Consider a comprehensive evaluation: Bipolar disorder can often be difficult to diagnose, and a comprehensive evaluation may be needed to rule out other possible causes of symptoms. This may include a physical examination, lab tests, and/or a psychiatric evaluation.
- Be prepared for a long-term commitment: Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that typically requires long-term treatment and management. Be prepared to work closely with your healthcare provider over an extended period of time in order to manage your symptoms effectively.
- Keep a symptom diary: Keeping a diary of your symptoms, including when they occur, how long they last, and how severe they are, can help your healthcare provider better understand your condition and make an accurate diagnosis.
- Be aware of the medications that might be prescribed: Bipolar disorder is typically treated with a combination of medications, including mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. It’s important to understand the potential side effects of these medications and to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.
- Consider therapy: Alongside medication, therapy can be an effective way to manage bipolar disorder. Different types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or family therapy, can help you to better understand your condition and to develop coping strategies.
- Be prepared for a journey: Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging, but with the right diagnosis, treatment and support, you can regain control of your life. Remember that it is a journey, and it may take time to find the right treatment plan that works for you.
Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that requires long-term treatment and management. Treatment typically includes a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes by working closely with your healthcare provider, keeping a symptom diary, and being open and honest about your symptoms, you can help ensure that you receive an accurate diagnosis and the best possible treatment for your condition can lead fulfilling and productive lives.
At CareMe Health, we provide an accessible and affordable virtual mental health platform, making it easy to receive the support you need, when you need it.