Bipolar is an often misunderstood disorder. It is not correct to use it to describe people who are moody, for example. In Bipolar Disorder, the patient experiences extended periods of depression and extended periods of mania. These periods of difficulty are so intense that they interfere with the patient’s ability to conduct a regular life.
When patients experience mania and depression but not to the degree that meets the diagnostic criteria of bipolar disorder, they may have what is known as cyclothymic disorder. Treatment for this disorder is similar to that of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar 1 & Bipolar 2
Bipolar disorder comes in two forms: bipolar 1 and bipolar 2.
Bipolar 1 involves periods of mania that last for at least a week. Depressive periods in this type of bipolar disorder last for at least two weeks. If a patient’s symptoms don’t last as long but are so intense that the patient requires hospitalization, that patient may qualify for a Bipolar 1 diagnosis.
Bipolar 2 involves shorter periods of depression or mania. Patients with bipolar 2 still need support and intervention in order to thrive.
Identifying Bipolar Disorder
Learning how to spot the signs of bipolar disorder can help a patient or their loved one’s realize that someone needs support and intervention.
In the manic stage of bipolar disorder, patients can exhibit a range of symptoms, including:
- Higher than usual energy levels
- Risk-taking behavior
- Racing, continuous thoughts
- Feeling invincible
- Getting frustrated with those who offer help or comfort
Depressive symptoms in bipolar disorder can include:
- Lower than usual energy
- Feelings of helplessness
- Poor sleep hygiene or insomnia
- Reduced appetite
- Constant exhaustion
- Apathy towards formerly enjoyable activities
- Suicidal thoughts
Testing for Bipolar Disorder
Doctors do not perform physical tests to identify bipolar disorder. Rather, the therapist works with the patient in session via interviews, discussions, and surveys to identify and diagnose the disorder.
This process can be stressful for patients, but they need to understand that this is a critical step in getting in better. Our mental health professionals work compassionately and respectfully with patients during diagnosis.
Those with bipolar disorder often experience comorbid conditions, including substance abuse, anxiety, ADHD, and psychosis. Your mental health professional will look for these related conditions during the diagnostic process.
How to Treat Bipolar Disorder
As in the treatment of many mental health disorders, treating bipolar disorder can involve talk therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Sometimes, when the patient is a threat to himself or others, admittance to an inpatient facility may be necessary.
CBT & Talk Therapies
Talk therapies such as CBT, Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy, and family therapy can all have a positive effect on bipolar disorder.
In CBT, the patient works with the therapist to identify triggers and develop coping mechanisms. CBT is often used in tandem with other interventions to help a patient.
In IPRST, patients explore how biology, social triggers, and their own emotions define their mental health. Understanding these relationships helps them develop better coping mechanisms.
Many times the family of a patient can benefit from therapy. Treating bipolar disorder can require understanding and cooperation from the loved ones of the patient. Therapy sessions for a family helps them build the tools they need to do this.
Bipolar Disorder Medications
Medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics can all help patients with bipolar disorder. A patient should work with a psychiatrist to figure out which medications work best for their case.
When traditional methods don’t work, patients often need to turn to Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). ECT has risk factors and should only be considered when other options are not producing results.
Some patients find success in working with life charts. The patient uses these life charts to track medications, daily behaviors, triggers, etc. These charts then help the patient and therapist identify patterns and develop coping mechanisms for the patient.
How Often Bipolar Disorder Occurs
According to some estimates, 2.6 percent of American adults have bipolar disorder. Because diagnostic criteria is under discussion for children and teens, statistics are less clear for them. It is estimated, however, that some 750,000 children may have the condition.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder
While research is ongoing, some believe there is a biological link to bipolar disorder. It does seem that patients with a family history of the disorder do tend to develop it at a higher rates than others. There is no definitive answer, however, as to what causes this mental health disorder.