Most of us have bad days and good days. Days where we can’t explain it but just don’t feel like ourselves, are moody and have no energy. There are other days when our mood is one of happiness and a feeling that we can conquer the world. The difference is that with bipolar disorder it’s more than just a fleeting good or bad mood. The cycles of bipolar disorder can last for days, weeks or months. And unlike ordinary mood swings, the mood changes of bipolar disorder are so intense that they interfere with your ability to function.
During a manic episode, a person might impulsively quit a job, charge up huge amounts on credit cards, or feel rested after sleeping two hours. During a depressive episode, the same person might be too tired to get out of bed and full of self-loathing and hopelessness over being unemployed and in debt.
Bipolar disorder can look very different in different people. The symptoms vary widely in their pattern, severity, and frequency. Some people are more prone to either mania or depression, while others alternate equally between the two types of episodes. Some have frequent mood disruptions, while others experience only a few over a lifetime. There are four types of mood episodes in bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, depression, and mixed episodes. Each type of bipolar disorder mood episode has a unique set of symptoms.
In the manic phase of bipolar disorder, feelings of heightened energy, creativity, and euphoria are common. People experiencing a manic episode often talk a mile a minute, sleep very little, and are hyperactive. They may also feel like they’re all-powerful, invincible, or can do anything.
Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. People in a hypomanic state feel euphoric, energetic, and productive, but they are able to carry on with their day-to-day lives and they never lose touch with reality. To others, it may seem as if people with hypomania are merely in an unusually good mood. However, hypomania can result in bad decisions that harm relationships, careers, and reputations. In addition, hypomania often escalates to full-blown mania or is followed by a major depressive episode.
In the past, bipolar depression was lumped in with regular depression. But recent research suggests that there are significant differences between the two, especially when it comes to recommended treatments. Most people with bipolar depression are not helped by antidepressants. In fact, there is a risk that antidepressants can make bipolar disorder worse–triggering mania or hypomania, causing rapid cycling between mood states, or interfering with other mood stabilizing drugs. Bipolar disorder requires long-term treatment. Since bipolar disorder is a chronic, relapsing illness, it’s important to continue treatment even when you’re feeling better. Most people with bipolar disorder need medication to prevent new episodes and stay symptom-free.
A mixed episode of bipolar disorder has symptoms of both mania or hypomania and depression. Common signs of a mixed episode include depression combined with agitation, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, distractibility, and racing thoughts. This combination of high energy and low mood makes for a particularly high risk of suicide.
There is more to treatment of bipolar disorder than medication. Medication alone is usually not enough to fully control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. The most effective treatment strategy for bipolar disorder involves a combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and social support.
It’s best to work with an experienced psychiatrist. Bipolar disorder is a complex condition. Diagnosis can be tricky and treatment is often difficult. For safety reasons, medication should be closely monitored. A psychiatrist who specializes in this disorder can help with this.
If you spot the symptoms of bipolar depression in yourself or someone else, don’t wait to get help. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away; in fact, it will almost certainly get worse. Living with untreated bipolar disorder can lead to problems in everything from your career to your relationships to your health. Diagnosing the problem as early as possible and getting into treatment can help prevent these complications.
While dealing with bipolar disorder isn’t always easy, it doesn’t have to run your life. But in order to successfully manage bipolar disorder, you have to make smart choices. Your lifestyle and daily habits have a significant impact on your moods.
Pam Rasmussen is a resident of LaFayette. She is a mother of a child with spina bifida and an advocate of special needs children and adults. She can be contacted at email@example.com.