Bipolar disorder is distinguished by episodes of excitability (mania) alternating with cycles of depression. The “mood swings” between mania and depression are often very sudden.
Bipolar disorder results from instability in the sections of the brain that regulate mood. During manic periods, an individual with bipolar disorder may be overly impulsive and energetic, with an overstated sense of self. The depressed stage brings overpowering feelings of anxiety, low self-respect and suicidal thoughts.
Many individuals with bipolar disorder require time in inpatient depression treatment centers where they can be removed from life stressors, get appropriate medication management and learn healthier coping skills. Learn more about The Ranch residential depression treatment programs or call 844-876-7680.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
There are two principal types of bipolar disorder. Individuals with bipolar disorder have had at least one fully manic episode with episodes of major depression. (At one time, bipolar disorder was called manic depression).
Individuals with bipolar disorder II rarely suffer full-fledged mania. Instead they suffer periods of hypomania (increased levels of energy and impulsiveness that are not as extreme as the symptoms of mania). These hypomanic episodes alternate with episodes of major depression.
A mild form of bipolar disorder called cyclothymia involves periods of hypomania and mild depression, with less severe mood swings. Individuals with bipolar disorder II or cyclothymia may be misdiagnosed as having depression alone.
Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally and usually appears between the ages of 15 and 25. The precise cause is unknown, but it occurs more often in relatives of individuals with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms & Signs
The manic phase of bipolar disorder may last from days to months and include the following symptoms:
- Elevated mood
- Racing thoughts
- Increased energy
- Lack of self-control
- Inflated self-esteem (delusions of grandeur, false beliefs in special abilities)
- Over-involvement in activities
- Reckless behavior
- Spending sprees
- Binge eating, drinking and/or drug use
- Sexual promiscuity
- Tendency to be easily distracted
- Little need for sleep
- Easily agitated or irritated
- Poor temper control
These symptoms of mania are seen with bipolar disorder I. In people with bipolar disorder II, hypomanic episodes involve similar symptoms that are less intense.
The depressed phase of both types of bipolar disorder involves very serious symptoms of major depression. These may include:
- Persistent sadness
- Fatigue or listlessness
- Sleep disturbances (e.g., excessive sleepiness or inability to sleep)
- Eating disturbances
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Overeating and weight gain
- Loss of self-esteem
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and/or guilt
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Withdrawal from friends
- Withdrawal from activities that were once enjoyed
- Persistent thoughts of death
There is a high risk of suicide with bipolar disorder. While in either phase, a person may abuse alcohol or other substances, which can worsen the symptoms. Sometimes there is an overlap between the two phases. Manic and depressive symptoms may occur simultaneously or in quick succession in what is called a mixed state.
Use of recreational drugs may be responsible for some symptoms, though this does not rule out bipolar affective disorder. Drug abuse may itself be a symptom of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis & Tests
A diagnosis of bipolar disorder involves consideration of many factors. Often, proper diagnosis and treatment requires a stay in an inpatient depression treatment center where individuals are monitored by behavioral and medical experts. The health care provider may do some or all of the following:
- Observe behavior and mood
- Obtain medical history, including any medical problems and current and former medications taken
- Ask about recent mood swings and how long a client has experienced them
- Inquire about family medical history, particularly whether anyone has or had bipolar disorder
- Perform a physical examination to identify or rule out physical causes of the symptoms
- Request laboratory tests to check for thyroid problems or drug levels
- Speak with family members to discuss their observations of the client’s behavior
Mood-stabilizing medication can help control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, patients often need help and support to take medicine properly and to ensure that any episodes of mania and depression are treated as early as possible.
Some people stop taking the medication as soon as they feel better or because they want to experience the productivity and creativity associated with mania. Although these early manic states may feel good, discontinuing medication may have very negative consequences.
Suicide is a very real risk during both mania and depression. Suicidal thoughts, ideas and gestures in people with bipolar affective disorder require immediate attention.
Bipolar Disorder Treatment
Bipolar disorder is often treated with mood-stabilizing medications such as valproic acid, lithium and carbamazepine. These are effective for treating both the manic and depressive phases, as well as avoiding future symptoms.
Antidepressant drugs may be useful throughout the depressive phase if the antidepressants are used with a mood stabilizer. Mood stabilizers are significant in individuals with bipolar disorder since without a mood stabilizer, antidepressants may trigger mania. (Keep in mind that individuals with bipolar disorder II may be misdiagnosed with depression only because they do not experience full-fledged mania. If these patients take antidepressants without mood stabilizers, it can trigger a manic episode.)
Anti-psychotic drugs can help an individual who has lost touch with reality. Anti-anxiety drugs, such as benzodiazepines, may also help in some cases. The client may need to stay in a depression treatment center until his or her mood has stabilized and symptoms are under control.
The Ranch mental health treatment center’s specially trained medical and behavioral experts draw upon a wide range of evidence-based traditional and alternative therapies to treat the full spectrum of mental health and addictive disorders that prevent individuals from living life to the fullest. Learn more about our treatment programs or call 844-876-7680.