Bipolar disorder is a common mental health problem. Two point eight percent of the total adult population has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The average age of affected people is 25 years old. However, symptoms may start showing at an early age or even during adolescence.

Bipolar disorder may affect a person’s daily life. It may disrupt usual activities and family relationships. It is a cycle of mood swings that can be exhausting to the affected person. Symptoms affected by hormones can worsen during and after pregnancy. 

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression or manic-depressive illness. A person diagnosed with bipolar disorder experiences two peaks of moods: (1) very happy and energetic and (2) very sad and depressed mood. It is called “bipolar” because it refers to two poles or opposite ends of the mood spectrum, where everything is normal in between.

The manic episode in a person with bipolar disorder exhibits an overly energetic, irritable excitement or happiness. This may affect their decision-making and daily routine. A slightly milder maniac episode that doesn’t disturb a person’s daily activities is called a hypomanic episode. The depressive episodes show extreme sadness, depression, and hopelessness.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder has three main types. They all have the same mood swings, changes in activity, and energy levels. A mental health disorder that shares the same symptoms but does not belong to the category is called “other unspecified and specified bipolar-related disorder.” 

1. Bipolar I Disorder

A person with bipolar I disorder has episodes of mania or hypomania that last at least one week. They may also exhibit severe manic symptoms that may need hospitalization. The depressive episodes are severe and last for at least 14 days. It is also possible for manic and depressive episodes to happen simultaneously in bipolar I disorder. 

2. Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder is characterized by having depressive episodes the same as bipolar I. However, the manic episodes are usually not severe. People with bipolar II only show hypomania symptoms and do not need hospital attention. 

3. Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)

Cyclothymic disorder symptoms last up to a year during adolescence and childhood. Adults may experience the symptoms for up to two years. A person with cyclothymia also experiences hypomania and depressive moods. Cyclothymia does not last long and is not as severe as the first two disorders. 

Causes and Risk Factors of Bipolar Disorder

There is no single evidence on what causes bipolar disorder. There is still ongoing research into the causes responsible for bipolar disorder.

One risk factor of bipolar disorder that scientists see is brain function and structure. A person with bipolar disorder has a different brain than someone without it. This factor helps mental health professionals understand the disorder and come up with better treatment and medication.

Bipolar disorder may be in the blood. A person with a family member diagnosed with bipolar disorder has a greater risk of having it. Those experiencing other mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can develop complications leading to bipolar disorder. 

How to Know If Someone Has Bipolar Disorder

A person with bipolar disorder may show different symptoms. It may be in the form of mood swings or often called an episode. It can be manic or depressive symptoms or both at the same time.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder in manic episodes:

  • More active than usual
  • Very irritable, jumpy, or touchy
  • Needs less sleep
  • Feeling elated or high
  • Exhibits poor judgment, is indecisive, spends money too much, engages in reckless sex, eats and drinks too much

People with bipolar disorder having depressive episodes may experience symptoms like:

  • A feeling of need to isolate yourself from others
  • The feeling of sadness and hopelessness
  • Sleeping a lot
  • Lack of interest in daily activities
  • Problems with making decisions or concentration
  • Thinking about suicide

The severity of the symptoms differs for each person. Some may have severe symptoms, and some may experience it mildly. The people around the person with bipolar disorder will notice these symptoms, while the affected person does not notice any changes.

If you have seen the movie Silver Linings Playbook starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, you will have an idea of how a person with bipolar disorder acts. Bradley Cooper’s character named Pat has bipolar disorder. 

Can Bipolar Disorder Be Treated?

There are many treatments available for bipolar disorder. The goal of these treatments is to stabilize changes in mood and the severity of symptoms. Bipolar disorder has a wide range of symptoms. Therefore, correct diagnosis and treatment may take time.

A healthcare professional may use different tools to diagnose bipolar disorder. It may include a physical exam, medical history, tests, and mental health evaluation. These are done to rule out other mental health disorders that may have the same symptoms as bipolar disorder.

Each person reacts differently to each treatment. It may involve a combination of therapies that includes counseling, medication, lifestyle remedies, and physical intervention. 

1. Medication

Drug treatments help stabilize of the person’s changes in mood and symptoms. Doctors may prescribe a combination of medicines to find the best treatment. They may also adjust the dosage over time.

Medication can be/or a combination of:

  • Antidepressants
  • Mood stabilizers like lithium
  • Anticonvulsants for manic episodes
  • Second-generation antipsychotics
  • Medications to help ease anxiety and to induce sleep 

2. Lifestyle Changes

The goal of lifestyle change is also to manage the mood and symptoms. Maintaining a routine, healthy food, and getting regular exercise may help with the treatment. For sleep management, having a regular sleeping pattern and preventing sleep disturbances will help lessen the symptoms. 

3. Therapy with a Mental Health Professional

Different kinds of therapy can help the person with bipolar disorder identify and manage their episodes. One of these is psychotherapy, which is also known as talk therapy. It is a collective term for a variety of treatments. Psychotherapy will give the affected person and their family support, knowledge, coping strategies, and skills to manage bipolar disorder episodes.

Another form of therapy is CBT or cognitive behavior therapy. This approach helps the individual identify and take steps to manage triggers like stress. It helps stabilize moods for as long as possible. CBT also engages family members, friends, and other social groups to understand and help manage bipolar disorder, especially in children.

Where to Find the Best Therapist for Bipolar Disorder

If you’re looking for a therapist for bipolar disorder in seniors, adults, children, and teens, Kentucky Counseling Center has a team of the best mental health professionals that can help. Aside from talk therapy, the Kentucky Counseling Center can help people with bipolar disorder connect with support groups to be a part of a supportive community.

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