Bipolar Disorder

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“Amplified and dramatic mood changes that control me”

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“I felt great and powerful.  It was magical.   How can I feel so depressed now?"

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“High highs and low lows, while through it all I’m being swept away”

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Many people have heard of the term bipolar disorder, or maybe the old term of manic depression.  We might have an idea of what it is, and how it is related to moodiness.  What many people might not know is the complexity of the illness, and how it’s a highly variable disease with an incredibly broad range of symptoms and severity.   

 

The illness can further be complicated by the fact many other illnesses may mimic the same symptoms.  When a diagnosis of Bipolar is suspected either by a person experiencing the symptoms or by a professional, other conditions must be suspected as well.  Thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, drug use, ADHD, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and personality disorders are a few examples of some illnesses that can produce overlapping symptoms with bipolar disorder.  

 

Bipolar symptoms occur under two main categories, mania related and depression related.  The two categories occur at separate times, and rarely occur simultaneously.  Symptoms from both categories must have occurred in a persons life for a specific period of time.  Symptoms of both categories include:

 

Mania related symptoms:

 

  • High level of energy 

  • Distractibility

  • Amplified good mood

  • Decreased need to sleep

  • Feelings of power

  • Delusional thoughts

  • Fast talking

  • Risk taking and seeking behaviors such as reckless spending, sexual activities, 

  • Irritability

  • Racing thoughts that are uncontrollable 

  • Poor concentration

  • Poor judgement with increased risk of illegal activities

  • Excessive drug or alcohol use

  • Poor insight

  • Aggressive behavior

 

 

Depression related symptoms:

 

  • Feeling depressed

  • Negative thinking

  • Flat mood

  • Sadness

  • Feelings of emptiness

  • Feelings of worthlessness

  • Feelings of helplessness

  • Feelings of guilt

  • Low level of energy

  • Changes in appetite or body weight

  • Low self-esteem

  • Changes in sleep pattern

  • Physical body symptoms such as aches, pain, cramps, headaches, or digestive problems

  • Disinterest in pleasurable activities 

  • Suicide thoughts or gestures

 

If a person is currently experiencing or experienced in the past some of these symptoms, professional help may be needed, especially if the symptoms have caused distress or impairment with a persons’ occupation, education, or social life.  There are many treatment options that can be provided by seeking help from a psychiatrist and/or psychologist.  

If left undiagnosed and untreated, bipolar disorder can become uncontrollable with severe consequences from social, occupational, legal, and health related aspects.   Episodes may become more frequent and severe. If properly treated, it’s possible for people with bipolar disorder to lead healthy and productive lives.

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References:

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association. 2013

http://www.nami.org/

1-800-950-NAMI (6264) —The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) supports people with mental illness and their families and friends.

www.mentalhealthamerica.net 

Mental Health America, formerly the National Mental Health Association, is the country's oldest and largest nonprofit organization for mental health and mental illness.

www.psychiatry.org 

The American Psychiatric Association’s online resource for anyone seeking support or facts about mental illnesses.

www.nimh.nih.gov 

1-866-615-6464 (toll free) —The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers information on mental illnesses and treatment options.