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What is Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder causes intense mood swings, energy fluctuations, and behavioral changes. Symptoms of bipolar disorder include manic and hypomanic episodes, as well as depressive episodes. The condition is manageable with medications, talk therapy, and lifestyle changes, among other treatments.

There are a few types of bipolar disorder, classified by the intensity of the hypomanic/manic and depressive episodes, which occur when moods fluctuate significantly. People with bipolar disorder aren't always hypomanic/manic or depressed. They also experience periods of normal mood, also referred to as euthymia

During a manic phase of bipolar disorder, you may:

  • feel very happy

  • have lots of energy, ambitious plans and ideas

  • spend large amounts of money on things you cannot afford and would not normally want

It's also common to:

  • not feel like eating or sleeping

  • talk quickly

  • become annoyed easily

When you are in the manic phase of bipolar disorder, you may feel very creative and view it as a positive experience. It is also possible to experience symptoms of psychosis, where you see or hear things that aren't real or become convinced of things that aren't true.

A major depressive episode is a period of at least two weeks in which a person has at least five of the following symptoms (including at least one of the first two symptoms):

  • Intense sadness or despair

  • Loss of interest in activities the person once enjoyed

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

  • Fatigue

  • Increased or decreased sleep

  • Increased or decreased appetite

  • Restlessness (e.g., pacing) or slowed speech or movement

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

It is possible to initially be diagnosed with clinical depression before having a manic episode and then be diagnosed with bipolar disorder much later.

What causes bipolar disorder?

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. Several factors likely play a role in the disorder. They include genetics, brain structure and function, and your environment.

Who is at risk for bipolar disorder?

People with close relatives who suffer from bipolar disorder are more likely to develop the disorder themselves. Going through trauma or stressful life events may raise this risk even more.

How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?

To diagnose bipolar disorder, you will need a mental health evaluation, which would include a medical history, asking and talking about your symptoms, lifetime history, experiences, and family history. You would also want to get medical test done to rule out other conditions.

What are the treatments for bipolar disorder?

The main treatments for bipolar disorder include medicines combined with psychotherapy.

  • Medications are available for treating bipolar disorder. In order to find the medicine that works best for you, you may need to try several different ones.

  • Psychotherapy (talk therapy) can help you recognize and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. You and your family can receive support, education, skills, and coping strategies. A variety of psychotherapies have been proven helpful for people with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition. However, you can live a healthy, successful life with long-term, ongoing treatment. If you or someone you love is having symptoms of bipolar disorder reach out to a mental health therapist in your area.

Odell Terrell is a mental health counselor in Greensboro, NC. He graduated with a MS in Counseling from Divine Mercy University in Arlington, VA, and places an emphasis on working with spiritual integration, adults and adolescents, trauma, family and children, and grief and loss. Odell received his undergraduate degree from the University of St. Leo's in St. Leo Florida, with a degree in Psychology. He has spent his last 15 years working in the field of emergency services. It is in working with people in emergency situations, both patients and first responders, that Odell has learned how to deal respectively with people in crises mode, helping instill a sense of hope and healing. Odell is happily married, for 17 years, and is the father of 9 children and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his family and child therapy practice.

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