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Bipolar Disorder (BP)

Bipolar Disorder is also known as manic-depression. It is characterized by extreme highs and lows, and severe mood swings, and often prevents normal function at work and at home. This is not your typical case of "the blues." It isn’t the normal cycle of up and down days we all have from stress, too little sleep, losing the lottery drawing, or breaking up with a boyfriend.

Bipolar Disorder is a serious disorder that can result in strained or broken relationships, poor job performance, and poor performance in school or group settings. Symptoms do not go away in a week or two. If left untreated, the disorder can even result in suicide. There have been significant advances in the treatment of this disorder. If you are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and you seek and follow an appropriate treatment plan, you can expect to be productive, and to lead a normal life.

What are the symptoms?

There are two types of Bipolar Disorder.Bipolar I is characterized by severe, debilitating symptoms, with extreme episodes that can include some or all of the following:

Manic Symptoms

  • Agitation, nervousness, irritability, feeling edgy, short-tempered, or restlessness
  • Increased sex drive or desire, loss of inhibition
  • Inability to focus
  • Euphoria, or feeling ‘high’
  • Boundless energy, sleeplessness, insomnia
  • Racing or disassociated thoughts, extreme talkativeness or rapid speech
  • Feeling you can ‘do no wrong’, inflated sense of self, grandiose feelings, inappropriate or poor judgment
  • Dressing or speaking in an extreme, or unusual manner
  • Delusions, hallucinations
  • Heavy use of drugs or alcohol
  • Rage, aggression or combative behavior
  • Reckless spending, driving at high speed, engaging in high risk activities, making decisions without considering consequences

Depressive Symptoms

  • Abnormally low, listless mood and energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and unworthiness
  • Excessive drug or alcohol use
  • Extreme increase or decrease in appetite or weight
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, co-workers
  • Self abuse or injury, thoughts, talk, plans or attempts of suicide
  • Constant fatigue, increase or decrease in sleep like insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Inability to concentrate or focus, or to make everyday decisions
  • Absence of self-esteem or confidence
  • Sadness, hopelessness, an attitude of ‘what’s the use?’
  • Loss of interest in daily activities, even those that would usually be exciting or interesting

Bipolar II is also called Hypomania. Bipolar II episodes and symptoms are significantly less extreme than Bipolar I behaviors.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Bipolar Disorder is usually diagnosed by a psychiatrist, a specialist, equipped to recognize the symptoms. An accurate diagnosis is very important, because treatment will usually include medications. If the wrong medications are prescribed, symptoms may worsen, or side effects may occur. It is wise to have a medical evaluation to be sure the symptoms do not come from another source, like poor thyroid or kidney function, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, lupus, even sodium imbalance. Bipolar Disorder can also be misdiagnosed as other psychiatric disorders like borderline personality, eating disorders, or schizophrenia.

If Bipolar Disorder is confirmed, a combination of therapies is often used with good results. These can reduce the frequency and severity of episodes. Treatment(s) can include:

  • Medications like lithium, anticonvulsants (which are used with good results), medication to treat extreme manic episodes, medication to treat insomnia
  • Education and therapy for the patient and family
  • Psychotherapy
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) New methods have created a resurgence in the use of ECT. It can be used in severe cases of BP that do not respond to other treatments
  • Assessment of patterns of Bipolar episodes in the life and schedule of the diagnosed individual
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

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Statistics

According to the National Institute of Health, 2.3 million American adults are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

That’s a little over 1% of the population. Men and women are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder, and the average age of onset is in the early twenties

If you are in a crisis please call:
1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or
1-800-273-TALK (8255)


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