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Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings. This includes alternating states of emotional highs (mania) and emotional lows (depression). Bipolar disorder affects 60 million people around the world. 

4 Types of the Disorder

There are 4 types of this disorder. Doctors place you in a category based on the severity, frequency and duration of manic and depressive episodes.

Bipolar I Disorder 

Also known as manic-depressive disorder, Bipolar I is defined by episodes of mania, which can last up to one week, and episodes of depression, which last for at least two weeks. You must have at least one manic episode and one depressive episode to get a Bipolar I diagnosis. In some cases, manic symptoms are so severe that they cause hospitalization.

Bipolar II Disorder

Someone with Bipolar II experiences hypomania and depressive episodes. Unlike in Bipolar I, you do not experience severe manic episodes.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Considered a mild form of bipolar disorder, cyclothymic disorder is characterized by frequent and brief hypomanic episodes and depressive symptoms. The depressive symptoms last for at least 2 years in adults and 1 year in children and adolescents. The symptoms of cyclothymic disorder are not as severe as episodes in either Bipolar I or II.

Bipolar Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified)

This type involves symptoms that do not match the disorders listed above. 

Symptoms 

Signs of a Manic Episode

  • Feeling euphoric 
  • Heightened energy
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling irritable
  • Impaired judgment
  • Talking excessively

It’s important to note that not everyone experiences severe manic episodes. In some cases, you may experience hypomania, which is less extreme than mania. 

symptoms of bipolar disorder manic and depressive episodes

Signs of a Depressive Episode

  • Feeling deep sadness and emptiness
  • Low energy
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Less interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Suicidal thoughts

The Patterns of Manic and Depressive Episodes

Manic and depressive patterns may vary from person to person. Here are some of the patterns you may experience:

    • Rapid cycling: This is defined by constant manic and/or depressive episodes without any normal moods in between. 
    • Mixed episodes: This involves symptoms of depression, mania or hypomania at the same time. The risk for suicide is higher during a mixed episode. 

Causes 

While a specific gene has yet to be identified for this mental illness, studies show that bipolar disorder tends to run in families. For example, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, your chance of developing this illness is four to six times higher when you have a parent or sibling with the disorder than someone without a genetic tie to the illness. 

Bipolar disorder is often triggered by a traumatic life event or other environmental factors such as extreme stress and physical illness. While it can affect anyone at any age, there are differences in symptoms based on age and gender. 

Bipolar Disorder in Children

Diagnosing bipolar disorder in children can be difficult because their symptoms may overlap with symptoms from other disorders such as attention deficit disorder (ADHD). Moreover, a proper diagnosis may take several weeks or months. 

Similar to adults, children with the disorder exhibit signs of emotional volatility. They experience manic episodes, with symptoms including excessive happiness, rapid speaking, and risky behavior. They may also have trouble concentrating and experience irregular sleeping patterns. 

In many cases, the manic episode is followed by a major depressive episode. Symptoms of a depressive episode can include low energy, acting sad, loss of interest in activities, and change in appetite.

Bipolar Disorder in Teens

Due to hormonal changes that occur during adolescence, mood swings are common among most teenagers. Sometimes, however, these changes in mood may reflect a more serious mental condition. Here are symptoms of a manic episode in teens:

  • Acting overly happy
  • Misbehaving and engaging in risky behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Developing an extremely high sex drive
  • Having difficulty sleeping 

Here are the symptoms of a depressive episode in teens: 

  • Feeling down and hopeless 
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Withdrawing from people and social activities
  • Having suicidal thoughts

Bipolar Disorder in Men

While both men and women are prone to the disorder, symptoms can vary depending on gender. Men with bipolar disorder are typically diagnosed at a younger age and have more severe episodes. They are more likely to die by suicide. Men are also less likely to seek medical treatment.

Bipolar Disorder in Women

Women are usually diagnosed later in life, typically in their 20s or 30s. Unlike men, women experience more depressive episodes compared to manic episodes. Due to hormone fluctuations caused by menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, women have an increased risk of relapsing.

Diagnosis

Because mood swings can vary between people with bipolar disorder, the condition can be challenging to diagnose. This is especially true with children and teenagers who already experience frequent shifts in mood and energy levels. If you believe that you or someone you know has bipolar disorder, the first step is to speak with a doctor or other licensed mental health professional. 

Treatment 

While there isn’t a known cure for bipolar disorder, the symptoms of the illness can be treated. Treatment is customized based on your symptoms

Medication

Various medications can help you control your symptoms. A doctor may have to prescribe several different medications, though, before finding the ones that meet your needs. These medications include – but are not limited to – antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics.

Prior to taking medication, you should speak with a health care provider or pharmacist to learn the risks and potential side effects of the medication.  If you’re looking for the latest information about medications, you can visit the FDA website.

Psychotherapy

someone with bipolar disorder talking to psychotherapist

Often paired with medication, psychotherapy is very beneficial if you have bipolar disorder. Treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and family-focused therapy. 

Lifestyle Changes

Self-care and leading a healthy lifestyle are crucial components of recovery. This includes adopting a regular sleep schedule, limiting alcohol consumption, exercising and meditating on a regular basis. 

Ask Your Family Members and Friends for Care and Support 

Bipolar disorder affects more than just the individual. Family and friends should make an effort to educate themselves about mental illnesses and your specific condition. Identifying and treating the symptoms of bipolar disorder is most effective as a group effort. 

We can help you

Port St. Lucie Hospital specializes in mental health services and is located on 20 acres near the beautiful Savannas Preserve. If you or one of your loved ones is struggling with a mental health disorder, we can help. Our 24-hour mental health services are provided by licensed professionals in various disciplines. We tailor our programs to our patient’s needs and will help you every step of the way.

We welcome you to our facility. From support groups to individual therapy treatment options, we are here to fight the battle with you. Reach out to us online today. You can also call us at 772-335-0400.
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