Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression) is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. The mood shifts range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, irritable, or energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very “down,” sad, indifferent, or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Events last at least seven days with Cyclothymic Disorder symptoms often lasting two years.
Bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed during late adolescence (teen years) or early adulthood though it may show up in children. Although the symptoms may vary over time, bipolar disorder usually requires lifelong treatment.
Bipolar disorder often presents along with other mental health disorders making it more challenging for the doctor to diagnosis bipolar disorder separately. In addition to bipolar disorder, you may see an anxiety disorder, substance use disorder, or eating disorder because the symptoms are similar. People with bipolar disorder also have an increased chance of having thyroid disease, migraine headaches, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other physical illnesses. Sometimes, a person with severe episodes of mania or depression may experience hallucinations or delusions due to the extremes in mood swings.
How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?
Treatment can help many people, including those with the most severe forms of bipolar disorder. An effective treatment plan usually includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Medications generally used to treat bipolar disorder include mood stabilizers and second-generation (“atypical”) antipsychotics. Treatment plans may also include medicines that target sleep or anxiety. Health care providers often prescribe antidepressant medication to treat depressive episodes in bipolar disorder, combining the antidepressant with a mood stabilizer to prevent triggering a manic episode.
Psychotherapy is a term for a variety of treatment techniques that aim to help a person identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It can provide support, education, and guidance to people with bipolar disorder and their families. Treatment may include therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychoeducation, used to treat a variety of conditions.
Describe a Depression Episode of Bipolar Disorder.
Descriptions of depressive episodes include the following:
- Very sad, “down,” empty, worried, or hopeless feeling.
- Everything is moving in slow motion, feeling restless.
- Trouble falling asleep, wake up too early or sleep too much.
- Experience an increase in appetite and weight gain.
- Talks very slowly feel like they have nothing to say, very forgetful.
- Have trouble concentrating or making decisions; unable to do even simple things
- Have little interest in any activities, a decrease or absent sex drive, or an inability to experience pleasure (“anhedonia”)
- Feel hopeless or worthless, think about death or suicide
May Experience Mania and Depression at Once
Sometimes people experience both manic and depressive symptoms in the same episode. People experiencing an event with mixed features may feel very sad, empty, or hopeless while, at the same, time feeling extremely energized. A person may have bipolar disorder even if their symptoms are less extreme. During a hypomanic episode, a person may feel excellent, be able to get things done and keep up with day-to-day life. The person may not think that anything is wrong, but family and friends may recognize the changes in mood or activity levels as possible bipolar disorder. Without proper treatment, people with hypomania can develop severe mania or depression.
What is Bipolar Mania?
People with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotion, changes in sleep patterns and activity levels, and uncharacteristic behaviors without recognizing how their actions affect others. These distinct periods are called “mood episodes.”
Manic episodes may include the following behaviors:
- Feeling elated, “up,” “high,” or irritable, touchy, “jumpy,” and “wired.”
- Feel they don’t need to stop what they’re doing to eat or sleep.
- Talk very fast about a lot of different things in the same conversation (pressured speech).
- Feel like their thoughts are racing around in their head.
- Think they can do a lot of things at once and start multiple projects which go unfinished before starting something else.
- Do risky things that show poor judgment, such as eat and drink excessively, spend or give away a lot of money, or have reckless sex.
- Feel like they are usually talented, important, or powerful.
- Feel more creative than usual.