Approximately 2.3 million Americans are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but the actual number of people affected by this disorder is even greater. Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a chronic condition and generally requires life-long treatment.
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What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar Disorder is a mental condition that causes dramatic shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels, and interferes with concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
There are three types of bipolar disorder. All three types involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience moods that 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). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.
Bipolar I Disorder— defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depressive symptoms and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.
Bipolar II Disorder— defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes that are typical of Bipolar I Disorder.
Cyclothymic Disorder (also called Cyclothymia)— defined by periods of hypomanic symptoms as well as periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.
Bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed during late adolescence or early adulthood. Occasionally, bipolar symptoms can appear in children. Bipolar disorder can also first appear during a woman’s pregnancy or following childbirth. Although the symptoms may vary over time, bipolar disorder usually requires lifelong treatment. Following a prescribed treatment plan can help people manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
What are the symptoms?
Mania and Hypomania
Mania and hypomania are two distinct types of episodes, but they have the same symptoms. Mania is more severe than hypomania and causes more noticeable problems at work, school, and social activities, as well as relationship difficulties. Mania may also trigger a break from reality (psychosis) and require hospitalization.
Both a manic and a hypomanic episode include three or more of these symptoms:
- Abnormally upbeat, jumpy, or wired
- Increased activity, energy, or agitation
- Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
- Decreased need for sleep
- Unusual talkativeness
- Racing thoughts
- Poor decision-making — for example, going on buying sprees, taking sexual risks or making 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, such as feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or tearful (in children and teens, depressed mood can appear as irritability)
- Marked loss of interest or feeling no pleasure in all — or almost all — activities
- Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite (in children, failure to gain weight, as expected, can be a sign of depression)
- Either insomnia or sleeping too much
- Either restlessness or slowed behavior
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Decreased ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
- Thinking about, planning, or attempting suicide
How is it treated?
Bipolar Disorder is typically treated using a combination of approaches. These include individual and/or group therapy and medication. A number of medications are used to treat bipolar disorder. The types and doses of medications prescribed are based on your particular symptoms. Some individuals may require short-term hospitalization for stabilization during acute periods of mania or depression.
Medications may include:
- Mood stabilizers. You'll typically need mood-stabilizing medication to control manic or hypomanic episodes. Examples of mood stabilizers include lithium (Lithobid), valproic acid (Depakene), divalproex sodium (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and lamotrigine (Lamictal).
- Antipsychotics. If symptoms of depression or mania persist in spite of treatment with other medications, adding an antipsychotic drug such as olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), aripiprazole (Abilify), ziprasidone (Geodon), lurasidone (Latuda) or asenapine (Saphris) may help. Your doctor may prescribe some of these medications alone or along with a mood stabilizer.
- Antidepressants. Your doctor may add an antidepressant to help manage depression. Because an antidepressant can sometimes trigger a manic episode, it's usually prescribed along with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic.
- Antidepressant-antipsychotic. The medication Symbyax combines the antidepressant fluoxetine and the antipsychotic olanzapine. It works as a depression treatment and a mood stabilizer.
- Anti-anxiety medications. Benzodiazepines may help with anxiety and improve sleep but are usually used on a short-term basis.
When to seek emergency help
Suicidal thoughts and behavior often occur in people with bipolar disorder. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, go to the nearest emergency room or crisis center, or confide in a trusted relative or friend. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Click here for a list of crisis resources. If you are a current patient of The Counseling Center, you can call (317) 754-0808 and ask to speak to the On-Call Therapist.
If you have a loved one who is in danger of suicide or has made a suicide attempt, don't leave the individual alone. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest emergency room. If you are a current patient of The Counseling Center, call (317) 754-0808 after arriving in the emergency department or crisis center and ask to speak to the On-Call Therapist. Do not delay seeking treatment while waiting to speak to the On-Call Therapist.
If you, or someone you love, is stuggling with Bipolar Disorder, give us a call today at (317) 754-0808. Our receptionists are available 24/7 to assist you.