Bipolar Disorder Treatment

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Individuals with bipolar disorder often find that symptoms worsen as time goes by. Bipolar disorders carry an increased risk of suicide and drug or alcohol addiction. Individuals with bipolar disorder must seek professional treatment in order to treat their condition. Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic depression, is a brain disorder that severely impacts an individual’s mood, attitude, behavior, activity levels, and energy. Individuals with bipolar disorder have experienced at least one episode of mania, as well as episodes of depression. These episodes tend to last for prolonged periods of time and are described as “mood episodes.” The majority of people with bipolar disorder mostly experience depressive episodes. However, there are some individuals who mostly experience manic or hypomanic episodes. Mood episodes can last for hours, days, and sometimes even months. During a manic episode, an individual may experience increased energy, grandiose feelings and beliefs, rapid thoughts, insomnia, and impulsive behavior. Depressive episodes may include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy, too little or too much sleep, and changes in eating habits. In some instances, individuals with bipolar will experience psychosis as a symptom of their disorder.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are five main types of bipolar disorder. Each type of bipolar disorder involves changes in mood, energy, and activity level. The mood episodes range from periods of elated and energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very sad, hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes).

Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar I disorder is defined by manic episodes or symptoms that last at least seven days. In some instances, these manic episodes are so severe that a person may need to be hospitalized. Depressive episodes will occur as well and last at least two weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features that include both depression and mania are also possible. Bipolar I is more severe than bipolar II because of the intense manic episodes and individuals with bipolar I may experience psychosis as a symptom of their mania.

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder is defined by depressive episodes with hypomanic episodes. A hypomanic episode is less intense than a full-blown manic episode. Although Bipolar II may be less severe than Bipolar I, Bipolar II will still interfere with a person’s ability to participate in normal life

Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)

Cyclothymic disorder is defined by numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms, as well as numerous periods of depressive symptoms that last for at least two years. The symptoms of cyclothymic disorder may not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode or depressive episode and be milder. However, the highs and lows of cyclothymia will still interfere with relationships, school or work responsibilities, and daily living.

Bipolar Disorder with Rapid Cycling

Individuals with rapid cycling bipolar experience four or more episodes of mania, hypomania, or depression in a year. It can happen at any point in the course of bipolar disorder and can come and go over a period of years, depending on treatment for the illness. It is not a “permanent” or indefinite pattern of episodes. These individuals may not return to a euthymic mood in between. A euthymic mood is defined as being neither depressed or manic. 

Anyone can develop bipolar disorder. An estimated six million people in the United States suffer from a form of bipolar disorder. A rapid cycling pattern may occur in about 10% to 20% of people with this disorder. People diagnosed with bipolar II disorder are more likely to experience episodes of rapid cycling.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder first start to appear when an individual is in their late teens or early 20s. The majority of bipolar sufferers develop this disorder before age 50. Those that are at a higher risk of developing bipolar disorder have an immediate family member with this illness.

 Bipolar Disorder Specified & Unspecified

If an individual does not meet the above categories, then they are defined by an unspecified, otherwise specified, or related disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) is a suggestive diagnosis rather than the definitive diagnosis of bipolarity. NOS suggests that an individual is at risk of developing bipolar disorder. Doctors may use this classification that is consistent with bipolar disorder but fall short of the criteria needed to make a definite bipolar disorder.

NOS is often used when a mood disorder is characterized by depression alternating with short episodes of hypomania. These mood swings tend to be rapid and happen within days of each other. Individuals most often diagnosed with NOS are children and adolescents, because they typically will not have a history of mood dysfunction. 

There are no specific criteria for doctors to utilize when making a bipolar NOS diagnosis. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) issued by the APA offers some examples of when it is appropriate to give this particular diagnosis: 

  • The person is experiencing alternating manic or depressive symptoms, but the episodes are too short to meet the criteria.
  • The individual has experienced hypomania and depression, but the length of the episodes does not meet the criteria for cyclothymic disorder.
  • An individual has had multiple hypomanic episodes, but no depressive episodes.
  • The person has suffered from a manic or mixed episode after a previous diagnosis of schizophrenia or a psychotic episode.
  • The individual meets bipolar disorder criteria, but the doctor or health professional suspects the symptoms are a result of recreational drug use, alcohol, or a neurological disorder. 

A well-informed diagnosis of bipolar disorder NOS would consider and involve a review of all possible causes. If substance abuse or an undiagnosed medical condition is a concern, further investigation would need to be done. This can include blood tests, drug screening, neurological imaging, or other strategies to identify an infection, injury, or malignancy.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Individuals with bipolar disorder experience symptoms of both mania and depression. People with this disorder experience periods of intense emotion, changes in sleep habits and activity levels, and also exhibit unusual behaviors, often not realizing their harmful or undesirable effects. These periods are different from the individual’s usual moods and behaviors. During one of these episodes, symptoms can last every day, and for most of the day. Episodes can last for extended periods, like several days or even weeks.

  • Feel sad, hopeless, down, empty or lost
  • Have decreased activity levels
  • Sleep too much or too little
  • Feel as if they can’t enjoy anything
  • Feel anxious, worries, or empty
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Eat too much or too little
  • Think about death or suicide

Individuals having a manic episode may:

  • Feel very energized, up, elated, or high
  • Have increased activity and emery levels 
  • Feel speedy, jumpy, or wired
  • Experience insomnia
  • Become more talkative or active than usual
  • Be easily irritated or agitated
  • Feel like their thoughts are going too fast
  • Believe they can do a number of things at once
  • Engage in risky behavior or act impulsively

Individuals having a depressive episode may:

  • Feel sad, hopeless, down, empty or lost
  • Have decreased activity levels
  • Sleep too much or too little
  • Feel as if they can’t enjoy anything
  • Feel anxious, worries, or empty
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Eat too much or too little
  • Think about death or suicide

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Treatment of bipolar disorder will help individuals gain better control over their mood swings and other symptoms related to bipolar disorder. Treatment usually includes medication and therapy. As symptoms are resolved through these treatments, individuals are able to develop the skills needed to achieve their goals. 

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness, and episodes of mania or depression may come back over time. However, treatment for bipolar disorder will help individuals discover a path to mental wellness that will allow an individual to return to normal life. 

For those individuals who have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, seeking help can be beneficial. At Montare Behavioral Health, we treat a wide variety of bipolar disorders and can help you restore a sense of control to your life. Contact us today at (888) 292-0870 to learn more about how Montare Behavioral Health can help you heal from bipolar disorder.

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