Anyone suffering from bipolar disorder knows how confusing the illness can be. It’s nothing like the popular misconception, that you swing from one mood to another. On the contrary, you feel stuck in either a period of depression or a period of mania, each of which can derail your life.
To help you understand whether you or someone you know has this illness and what it is really like, here is everything you need to know about bipolar disorder.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is considered a mood disorder. That is, it is an illness that severely affects the way you feel for long periods of time. Someone suffering from bipolar disorder struggles to regulate their emotions due to chemical imbalances in the brain.
It can be frightening and leave you feeling very alone, even when you are energized by a manic episode. The truth is that you are not alone. In the United States, over five and a half million people suffer from bipolar disorder. By working with mental health professionals at Gooden Treatment Center, you can successfully treat your illness as many have before you.
There are multiple types of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar I disorder is the most common and most widely recognized form of bipolar disorder. When you’re suffering from bipolar I disorder, your lows are very low and your highs are very high.
During a period of depression, you may feel a deep sense of despair and have difficulty experiencing pleasure. You experience low motivation and find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning or all through the day. When you do get out of bed, you feel tired all the time. You may have thoughts of suicide and self-harm.
During a period of mania, you may feel ecstatic and exhilarated. Everything seems right in the world, which appears far more vivid than ever before. You struggle to sleep and are consumed by racing thoughts and creativity. You start seeing patterns that no one else sees, and may have delusions of grandeur. Some people experience auditory and visual hallucinations during a manic episode.
Many people would find the symptoms of a manic episode exciting. Who doesn’t want to feel ecstatic and full of energy? Sufferers of bipolar disorder often feel this way at the start of the episode. However, the ensuing struggle to “switch off,” difficulty forming coherent thoughts, and sleep problems lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed. Furthermore, actions during a manic episode can have major consequences on a person’s life, inadvertently hurting themselves and others, and putting their reputation at risk.
Bipolar II disorder is similar to bipolar I. The lows of bipolar II are extremely low, but the highs are not as high. Instead, you experience what is called hypomania. You have increased energy and racing thoughts, but you have more control over them. You feel a sense of euphoria but you don’t feel so overwhelmed by it. You may also experience sleep difficulties and may make reckless choices that lead to serious consequences. It seems more “harmless” than full-blown mania, but it can still derail your life.
Individuals with cyclothymia also suffer from cycles of periods of depression and periods where they feel high. However, the periods of depression are not severe enough to be considered major depression and the highs are not high enough to be considered hypomania. Around 0.7% of people experience cyclothymia over their lifetime.
How we treat Bipolar Disorder
At Gooden Treatment Center, we do not have a one-size-fits-all approach. Your particular circumstances will be taken into account, as well as your own input. Context is always incredibly important, and we will discuss your home environment and include your family in treatment if necessary.
The most common treatments we provide for the various bipolar disorders are:
Medication is the first port-of-call in bipolar treatment. Bipolar I disorder is commonly treated with lithium-based medications, which relieve symptoms of a manic episode. They can also reduce bipolar depression, and have been shown to reduce suicide risk.
Bipolar depression is not treated with antidepressants, as they can trigger mania or hypomania in people suffering from bipolar disorder. Rather, mood stabilizers help with bipolar depression. These include medications like Lamictal, which was originally designed to treat epilepsy, Seroquel, and Zyprexa.
Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed for bipolar II disorder, but need to be taken with caution and are usually paired with mood stabilizers.
If you have lost touch with reality during a manic episode, your doctor may prescribe you antipsychotics. These are often useful as mood stabilizers as well, with drugs such as Seroquel able to perform a dual purpose.
When you’re suffering from mania, you may not be aware you are ill. Hospitalization is a common component of treatment for bipolar I during a manic episode, while you begin to respond to the medication.
When you’ve suffered from bipolar disorder of any kind, you are likely to have difficulty regulating difficult emotions. Furthermore, whatever triggered your depression or mania may still cause you difficulties. In therapy, you will discuss your history and the issues you’ve faced in the past and in the present, as well as what you want for the future.
Practical therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) will teach you skills to self-regulate your emotions so they do not spiral to a point where they become unmanageable.
In addition to medication and therapy, certain lifestyle modifications reduce the risk of future episodes. These include regular exercise, healthy eating habits, and finding a better work-life balance.
Gooden Treatment Center is ready to help you achieve your optimal outcomes. If you or a loved one are suffering from a form of bipolar disorder, the good news is that the above interventions will lead you on your way to recovery. Millions before you have suffered from this frightening illness and have managed to go on to live happy, healthy lives.
Most of the medication you take for bipolar disorder will be chronic, meaning you will need to go on taking it indefinitely. This might discourage you, but its side effects are limited and your body will adjust to accommodate the changes. Before long, you’ll be used to taking your daily medication and will barely even think about it.
Skills learned in therapy also need to be practiced, and with consistent work, you will begin to feel greater self-awareness, while appreciating life more than ever before.
Get in touch with Gooden Treatment Center today and start your journey towards recovery.
- Angst, J. Int J Bipolar Disord (2013) 1: 12. https://doi.org/10.1186/2194-7511-1-12
- Harvard Medical School, 2007. National Comorbidity Survey (NSC). Retrieved from https://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/ncs/index.php. Data Table 1: Lifetime prevalence DSM-IV/WMH-CIDI disorders by sex and cohort.
- American Psychiatric Association (2013), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing, pp. 139–141, ISBN 978-0890425558
- Lewitzka, U., Severus, E., Bauer, R., Ritter, P., Müller-Oerlinghausen, B., & Bauer, M. (). The suicide prevention effect of lithium: more than 20 years of evidence-a narrative review. International journal of bipolar disorders, 3(1), 32. doi:10.1186/s40345-015-0032-2
- Ng, F., Hallam, K., Lucas, N., & Berk, M. (2007). The role of lamotrigine in the management of bipolar disorder. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 3(4), 463–474.
- Muneer A. (2015). Pharmacotherapy of bipolar disorder with quetiapine: a recent literature review and an update. Clinical psychopharmacology and neuroscience : the official scientific journal of the Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 13(1), 25–35. doi:10.9758/cpn.2015.13.1.25