Bipolar Disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental illness that causes dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to think clearly. Bipolar individuals experience extreme high and low moods, which differ from the typical “ups and downs” that most people experience.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary, and so can the severity of this disease. Some people can go years without any symptoms, while others can experience extremes in rapid sequence or even simultaneously. There are several types of bipolar and related disorders. Symptoms include mania or hypomania and depression. These symptoms can also include delusions and or hallucinations which could be mistakenly thought to be schizophrenia.
Mania and Hypomania
Mania and hypomania are two distinct types of episodes. Mania is more severe than hypomania and causes more noticeable problems at work, school and socially. Mania may also trigger psychosis and require hospitalization.
Both a manic and a hypomanic episode include three or more symptoms:
Abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired
Increased activity, energy or agitation
Exaggerated sense of well-being and confidence
Decreased need for sleep
Poor decision-making — (buying sprees, sexual risks, foolish investments)
Major Depressive Episode
A major depressive episode includes symptoms that are severe enough to cause noticeable difficulty in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships. An episode includes five or more of these symptoms:
- Depressed mood (feeling sad, empty, hopeless or tearful, depressed mood can appear as irritability)
- Loss of interest, feeling no pleasure in almost all activities
- Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or change in appetite
- Insomnia OR sleeping too much
- Restlessness OR slowed behavior
- Fatigue, loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness, excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Decreased ability to think or concentrate, and indecisiveness
- Thinking about, planning or attempting suicide
The Highs and the Lows
A person must have experienced at least one episode of mania to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Someone with bipolar may find an elevated mood of mania appealing, especially if it occurs after depression. However, the high does not stop at a comfortable level, and behavior can become more irritable and unpredictable (and judgement impaired) so that they behave impulsively and take extreme, even suicidal, risks.
Depression, or the lows of bipolar, can be so severe that the person cannot get out of bed, yet cannot sleep, while others can spend most of their day sleeping. Depression can make even a decision on what to eat overwhelming. This negative thinking of loss and helplessness can lead to thoughts of suicide, too.
Suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among people with bipolar disorder. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, go to an emergency room, or confide in a trusted relative or friend. Or call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Diagnosis and Treatment
The average age on onset of bipolar disorder is mid-twenties, but can start in the teens and even in childhood, though rarely. Males and females are equally affected by this condition. About three percent of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and of this, about 80 percent are considered severe.
Researchers have not discovered a single cause of bipolar disorder. They believe that genetics, stress and brain structure and function could all play a part. In addition, Bipolar Disorder may accompany another health condition that needs to be treated. Some heath/mental health conditions can worsen bipolar disorder.
Untreated, bipolar disorder usual worsens, but with a healthy lifestyle and psychotherapy, medications, self-management strategies, and complementary health approaches, many people can live well with bipolar disorder.
Diamond Lake Clinic offers a team of experienced professionals who can evaluate your symptoms and experiences and help you find a solution.