Understanding Bipolar Disorder

By and maintaining a sense of understanding and respect for bipolar disorder, individuals suffering can reclaim their lives. Though bipolar disorder is a chronic condition, it does not have to get in the way of your happiness or quality of life. With the help of medication, therapy and lifestyle modifications, individuals suffering from any classification of bipolar disorder can find hope again.Individuals with bipolar disorder are capable of leading healthy, happy and satisfying lives; however, they often need in-depth medications and counseling to overcome the distorted messages in their minds. This kind of help can only come about when people who have bipolar disorder obtain the proper diagnosis and get into a treatment program.

Bipolar Cycles

Bipolar disorder is characterized by moods that cycle, regardless of the events that are happening to the individual on the outside. Rather than feeling a mood shift due to some sort of exterior prompt, like a happy surprise or a sudden injury, they feel shifts due to nothing at all that they can point to, and often those shifts result in emotions of great intensity.

For example, people with bipolar I disorder shift from episodes of intense happiness or mania to significant episodes of deep despair or depression. Bipolar II disorder isn’t quite as serious, as people with this variant might not have episodes of intense mania, but these people might still vary from deep depression to subtle mania on a regular basis.

Manic Symptoms

For those who develop bipolar I disorder, manic episodes can be intense. In an article in Salon, a writer who had bipolar mania described the episode as a cycle that began with feelings of creativity and happiness, but those feelings began to deepen and grow, until the writer felt as though he was hallucinating, chased by his own paranoia. He could tell that something about his mind wasn’t quite right, but he was helpless to stop it.

In addition to happiness and paranoia, common symptoms of mania include:

  • Rapid speech patterns
  • Distractibility
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Little need for sleep
  • Impulsivity

Depression Symptoms

While feeling sad from time to time is likely to be a familiar feeling for almost everyone, those in the midst of a bipolar depression episode feel an extreme form of sadness that might make them feel incapable of handling the tasks associated with daily life. They might find it difficult to even get out of bed in the morning, and if they do, they might struggle with concentration and energy. Sleeping seems to be the only thing that provides any relief, and people like this might sleep for days at a time.

Other Signs to Watch For

Inappropriate or unusual moods are the hallmarks of bipolar disorder, but it’s also relatively common for people with this mental illness to deal with issues involving anger and remorse. At one moment, they might fly into a rage and attack the people they love, but moments later, they might desire physical affection. This is also a shift and it could be a warning sign.We naturally respond to the ups and downs of life through our emotions. To experience exquisite moments of joy is one of the most wonderful ways to feel human. While less enticing, it is equally human to experience periods of profound sadness. While healthy emotional expression is a necessary aspect of overall health, not all individuals are able to channel their emotions with such ease.

For individuals with bipolar disorder, normal emotional expression is marked by moments of either extreme mania or dark depression. Classified as a manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder causes erratic shifts in an individual’s mood and energy level. While it is normal for all individuals to experience periodic highs and lows, those with bipolar disorder exhibit more severe shifts in moods – typically drastic and emotionally charged.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, most individuals with bipolar disorder initially experience it during their younger years. Recent data suggests that bipolar disorder affects 2.6 percent of the US population, with an astounding 83 percent of cases deemed severe. Despite the specific type, bipolar disorder is classified as “severe” based on how strongly the symptoms interfere with the individual’s quality of life. More specifically, nearly 50 percent of bipolar cases begin before the individual turns 25.

Mania and Depression

As bipolar disorder is a chronic condition, it requires consistent behavioral and lifestyle modifications. Although each individual will be unique in their symptoms, most individuals with bipolar disorder experience intense mood swings of mania or depression. The following are symptoms associated with a manic episode:

  • Prolonged period of high energy and extreme happiness
  • Engaging in impulsive and high-risk behaviors
  • Talking rapidly and moving quickly from one topic to the next
  • Restless behavior, including sleeping very little

The following are symptoms associated with a depressive episode:

  • Prolonged periods of sadness or “the blues”
  • Fatigued
  • Increased thoughts of death and/or suicide
  • Behavioral changes, specifically with eating or sleeping habits

4 Types

While all individuals with bipolar will vary in the frequency, duration and intensity of their symptoms, the disorder is a chronic condition. According to the DSM-V, there are four distinct types of bipolar:

  1. Bipolar I Individuals will shift back and forth between periods of mania and depression. Typically, each manic period lasts a minimum of seven days and each depressive episode lasts a minimum of two weeks.
  2. Bipolar II Individuals will experience periods of both mania and depression, but not full-blown episodes. While the symptoms are still problematic, the intensity and duration is less severe than those with bipolar 1 disorder.
  3. Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BP-NOS). These individuals exhibit all of the classic symptoms, but without the severity of bipolar 1 or ll. Typically, individuals with this type of bipolar will experience extreme mania and depression, but to less severe degrees as the other classifications.
  4. Clyclothymic Disorder. These individuals will still experience manic and depressive episodes, often spanning for a minimum of two years, but fail to meet the specific criteria for bipolar 1, ll, or BP-NOS.

If you have any questions about bipolar disorder, please don’t hesitate to contact us here at Adjustments Family Services.