Do you feel very happy and outgoing—or very irritable—on some days, but unusually sad or anxious on other days? Do the “up” periods go along with increased energy or activity? Do the “downs” go along with low energy, hopelessness, inability to enjoy what you usually like to do, and sometimes suicidal thoughts? Do these mood swings make it hard to sleep, stay focused, or get things done? Some people with these symptoms have a lifelong but treatable mental disorder called bipolar disorder
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a chronic or episodic (which means occurring occasionally and at irregular intervals) mental disorder. It can cause unusual, often extreme, and fluctuating changes in mood, energy, activity, and concentration or focus. Bipolar disorder sometimes is called a manic-depressive disorder or manic depression, which are older terms. Everyone goes through normal ups and downs, but bipolar disorder is different. The range of mood changes can be extreme. In manic episodes, someone might feel very happy, irritable, or “up,” and there is a marked increase in activity level. In depressive episodes, someone might feel sad, indifferent, or hopeless, in combination with a very low activity level. Some people have hypomanic episodes, which are like manic episodes, but less severe and troublesome. Most of the time, the bipolar disorder develops or starts during late adolescence (teen years) or early adulthood. Occasionally, bipolar symptoms can appear in children. Although the symptoms come and go, bipolar disorder usually requires lifetime treatment and does not go away on its own. Bipolar disorder can be an important factor in suicide, job loss, and family discord, but proper treatment leads to better outcomes.
What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary. An individual with bipolar disorder may have manic episodes, depressive episodes, or “mixed” episodes. A mixed episode has both manic and depressive symptoms. These mood episodes cause symptoms that last a week or two or sometimes longer. During an episode, the symptoms last every day for most of the day. Mood episodes are intense. The feelings are intense and happen along with changes in behavior, energy levels, or activity levels that are noticeable to others.
|SYMPTOMS OF A MANIC EPISODE
|SYMPTOMS OF A DEPRESSIVE EPISODE
|Feeling very up, high, elated, extremely irritable, or touchy
|Feeling very down or sad, or anxious
|Feeling jumpy or wired, more active than usual
|Feeling slowed down or restless
|Trouble concentrating or making decisions
|Decreased need for sleep
|Trouble falling asleep, waking up too early, or sleeping too much
|Talking fast about a lot of different things (“flight of ideas”)
|Talking very slowly, feeling like you have nothing to say, or forgetting a lot
|Excessive appetite for food, drinking, sex, or other pleasurable activities.
|Lack of interest in almost all activities
|Thinking you can do a lot of things at once without getting tired.
|Unable to do even simple things
|Feeling like you are unusually important, talented, or powerful
|Feeling hopeless or worthless, or thinking about death or suicide
Some people with bipolar disorder may have milder symptoms than others with the disorder. For example, hypomanic episodes may make the individual feel very good and be very productive; they may not feel like anything is wrong. However, family and friends may notice the mood swings and changes in activity levels as behavior that is different from usual, and severe depression may follow mild hypomanic episodes.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
There are three basic types of bipolar disorder; all of them involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, and energized behavior or increased activity levels (manic episodes) to very sad, “down,” hopeless, or low activity level periods (depressive episodes). People with bipolar disorder also may have a normal (euthymic) mood alternating with depression. Four or more episodes of mania or depression in a year are termed “rapid cycling.”
- Bipolar I Disorder is defined by manic episodes that last at least seven days (most of the day, nearly every day) or when manic symptoms are so severe that hospital care is needed. Usually, separate depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least two weeks. Episodes of mood disturbance with mixed features (having depression and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.
- Bipolar II Disorder is defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes described above.
- Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia) is defined by persistent hypomanic and depressive symptoms that are not intense enough or do not last long enough to qualify as hypomanic or depressive episodes. The symptoms usually occur for at least two years in adults and for one year in children and teenagers.
- Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders is a category that refers to bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match any of the recognized categories.
How is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?
To diagnose bipolar disorder, a doctor or other health care provider may:
- Complete a full physical exam.
- Order medical testing to rule out other illnesses.
- Refer the person for an evaluation by a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist or other mental health professional diagnoses bipolar disorder based on the symptoms, lifetime course, and experiences of the individual. Some people have bipolar disorder for years before it is diagnosed.
This may be because bipolar disorder has symptoms in common with several other mental health disorders. A doctor may think the person has a different disorder, such as schizophrenia or (unipolar) depression. Family and friends may notice the symptoms, but not realize that the symptoms are part of a more significant problem. People with bipolar disorder often have other health conditions, which can make it hard for doctors to diagnose bipolar disorder.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder Symptoms in North Chesterfield, VA
If you have symptoms of bipolar disorder, contact the experienced and compassionate providers at EPIC Health Partners LLC. We provide clinic-based, community-based behavioral health assessments, outpatient therapy, and telepsychiatry services to adults and children.
Our team of providers treats a wide range of mental health issues, including bipolar disorder. We will assess your individual needs and provide you with the personalized care you need to help you lead a full and rewarding life.