What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a condition that causes extreme mood swings characterized by intense emotional episodes (mania or hypomania) followed by inexplicable emotional ‘downs’ (depression).
When you go into depression, you may feel hopeless and sad. You lose your interest in pleasurable activities and feel exhausted most of the time.
But as soon as your mood shifts to mania or hypomania, you begin to experience a significant increase in motivation. You feel euphoric, full of energy, restless, and nervous.
For sufferers, bipolar disorder can feel like an endless cycle of euphoria and depression. While sufferers can appreciate, and perhaps even enjoy, the periods of mania the frequent emotional ups and downs can become exhausting at some point.
The mood changes that characterize bipolar disorder can affect your sleep, behavior, decisions, and social interactions. In other words, this condition can eventually ruin your personal and professional life.
Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong burden, people who struggle with this condition can learn to manage mood swings and other related symptoms by following a specific treatment plan.
Signs of Bipolar Disorder
To understand what people with bipolar disorder are going through, we need to look at the symptoms that characterize the manic and depressive episodes.
During the manic phase, patients may experience:
- High levels of energy
- Excessive, rapid, and sometimes incoherent speaking
- Grandiosity and an increased sense of self-esteem
- Lack of focus
- Impulsive decision making
- Tendency to engage in numerous projects
- Excessive risk-taking
- Substance abuse
- Lack of sleep
- Intrusive, repetitive thoughts.
During the depressive phase, patients may experience
- Depressive mood
- Lack of energy
- Lack of motivation
- Poor quality sleep
- Physical and mental exhaustion
- Persistent sadness
- Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
- Suicidal ideation
- Difficulty in making decisions.
Depending on the severity of the condition, each phase can last between one week and two-three months.
How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?
Since bipolar disorder is a severe psychiatric condition, mental health professionals will often recommend a combination of both medication and therapy.
Individual and group therapy can have a significantly positive impact on the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Approaches like dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, solution-centered therapy, or family-oriented therapy provide some of the most widely used strategies for treating bipolar disorder.
With the help of a licensed counselor or therapist, you can acquire healthy coping strategies that help you maintain emotional stability and manage sudden mood swings.
Most experts agree that drug therapy is a first-line treatment for bipolar disorder. In other words, it’s almost impossible to achieve recovery in the absence of pharmacological interventions.
Medication lowers the intensity of manic and depressive symptoms, thus cultivating emotional stability. This allows patients to focus on implementing lifestyle changes that help them manage their condition better.
In the most severe cases of mania or depression, hospitalization may be necessary.
As always, your day-to-day habits can influence your ability to handle the emotional instability associated with this condition.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can be an essential part of your overall recovery. This can include giving up on psychoactive substances, adopting a regular sleep schedule, and regular exercise. Sufferers frequently report that meditation and yoga are helpful.
WHEN TO SEE A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
Mental health issues are real, common, and treatable. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 20% of those are considered serious. 17% of 6-17 year olds experience a mental health disorder. So the first thing to remember is this: You are not alone.
If you feel that you are suffering from a mental illness, and particularly if those issues are preventing you from living life to the full or feeling yourself, you may want to consider professional help which can make an enormous difference.
And to be clear, you don't need to be going through a crisis in order to justify getting help. In fact, it can be advantageous from a treatment perspective to identify and deal with issues early and before they have a major impact on your life. Either way you should feel encouraged and able to seek help however you are feeling.
Mental health professionals such as licensed therapist can help in a range of ways including:
- Help you identify where, when, and how issues arise
- Develop coping strategies for specific symptoms and issues
- Encourage resilience and self-management
- Identify and change negative behaviors
- Identify and encourage positive behaviors
- Heal pain from past trauma
- Figure out goals and waypoints
- Build self-confidence
Treatment for mental health issues, and psychotherapy (sometimes known as 'talk therapy') in particular, frequently helps people to feel better, manage, and even get rid of their symptoms. For example, did you know that over 80% of people treated for depression materially improve? Or that treatment for panic disorder has a 90% success rate?
Other treatment options include medication which, in some cases, can be highly effective when administered in combination with psychotherapy.
So what is psychotherapy? It involves talking about your problems and concerns with a mental health professional. It can take lots of forms, including individual, group, couples and family sessions. Often, people see their therapists once a week for 50 minutes to start with and then reducing frequency as time goes on and issues subside. Treatment can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a few years depending on your particular situation and response.
Never think that getting help is a sign of weakness. It isn't. In fact, it can be a sign of strength and maturity to take the steps necessary to becoming you again and getting your life back on track.
WHEN TO GET EMERGENCY HELP
Are you in distress? If so, or if you think that you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Also consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:
- Call your mental health specialist.
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
- Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
If a loved one or friend is in danger of attempting suicide or has made an attempt:
- Make sure someone stays with that person.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
- Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.