Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition characterized by cycles of elevated mood, known as "mania", combined with episodes of severe depression. Because of this, bipolar disorder is often referred to as "manic depression". These episodes of mania are what separates bipolar disorder from more common conditions such as major depressive disorder.
Because of the complex nature of bipolar disorder, diagnosis can remain tricky. Patients often first seek treatment during a depressive phase, which can lead to an incorrect diagnosis of major depressive disorder. This is further complicated by the fact that medications used to treat major depressive disorder, such as common SSRI antidepressants, can trigger manic phases and make symptoms worse. Bipolar sufferers see an average of three mental health counselors over a period of 10 years before receiving a correct diagnosis. Given the serious nature of bipolar disorder, proper diagnosis is crucial.
Bipolar disorder, as mentioned above, is characterized by cycles between "depressive" and "manic" phases. The symptoms in each of these respective phases differ significantly.
In depressive phases of the disease, patients may experience symptoms typical of major depressive disorder, such as:
During manic phases, patients often experience symptoms directly opposite of those experienced during depressive phases. These include symptoms such as:
In addition to these two primary phases, those with bipolar may experience "mixed episodes", where symptoms of both manic and depressive phases are apparent. Patients in these mixed episodes may be restless, excessively irritable, or otherwise agitated. Further complicating the matter are periods where no symptoms of the disease are apparent, which often leads patients to erroneously believe that they are not ill, or are "cured" of the disease.
Given the increased impulsivity associated with bipolar disorder, there is typically an increased risk of suicidal or self-harming behavior than there is in other depressive disorders. The increased incidence of psychotic behavior likewise puts untreated patients at a higher risk of danger. Bipolar disorder is further characterized by its existence on a spectrum-- patients with relatively "milder" symptoms may be eligible for a diagnosis of bipolar type II, which features the same manic-depressive cycles of bipolar type I with the exclusion of more severe symptoms, such as psychosis. Despite being considered a "milder" form of the illness, bipolar type II is still considered a serious mental health condition requiring careful treatment by a trained professional.
If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, or believe you may have bipolar disorder, it is imperative that you reach out and get treatment. Due to the cyclical nature of bipolar, many patients go through periods where they feel otherwise functional. This may keep them from getting the treatment they need, which ultimately sets them up for catastrophe when the disease inevitably gets worse.
While talk therapy is often a crucial element of treatment for bipolar disorder, many patients with the condition find that they need medicine to function adequately. Given the cyclical nature of bipolar, typical antidepressants are often not enough, and may, in fact, make the condition worse. It is because of this that bipolar is often treated with mood stabilizing drugs such as lithium, in addition to any antidepressants. Patients taking drugs should be closely monitored by their doctor in order to detect and prevent any aggravation in their condition that may be triggered by certain medications, or through the normal course of the disease.
If you suffer from bipolar disorder, it is important to remember that this condition is not your fault. Given the intensity of the condition, bipolar disorder is a condition which is often acknowledged with increased fear and stigma, even more so than other mental health conditions.
While bipolar is a very serious condition that requires careful treatment, recovery is possible. At Overcomers Counseling, we strive to help you treat this disease with the care and empathy it requires. If you're ready to get help, reach out and speak with one of our counselors. You can feel confident in your choice of Colorado Springs Overcomers. Call 719-345-2424.