Bipolar disorder causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out everyday tasks. First signs often develop during adolescence and early adulthood.
- Experiencing intense emotional states that occur in distinctive “mood episodes,” each representing a drastic change from an individual’s usual behavior or mood.
- A mood state can be experienced through a manic episode, a depressive state or a combination of the two.
- Individuals experience mood episodes over varying lengths of time and can have a combination of symptoms and severity of symptoms
- Coexisting disorders such as anxiety, PTSD, social phobia, or substance abuse are common among individuals with bipolar disorder
- Manic episode – symptoms include a long period of feeling “high” or an overly happy or outgoing mood, extreme irritability, talking fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts, being easily distracted, taking on many new projects, sleeping little or not being tired, having unrealistic belief in one’s abilities, engaging in pleasurable, high risk behaviors
- Depressive episode – symptoms include an overly long period of feeling sad or hopeless, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, feeling tired, having trouble concentrating, remembering or making decisions, being restless, changing eating or sleeping habits, thinking of death or suicide
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness and can be treated effectively over a long-term period with continuous treatment. Effective maintenance treatment plans often consist of a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
- Medications – Several different types of medications can help control symptoms of bipolar disorder. Types of medications generally used to treat bipolar include mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics and antidepressants. It is important to work with your doctor and therapist to find the appropriate dosage and combination of medications to treat individual symptoms.
- Psychotherapy – used to provide support, education and guidance to people with bipolar disorder and their family. Types of therapy that are commonly used to treat bipolar disorder include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), family-focused therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy and psychoeducation.
- Other types of treatments – Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), sleep medications, and some herbal supplements are occasionally used to alleviate symptoms of bipolar disorder. All medications and supplements should be discussed with the individual’s doctors before taking.
How to Ask for Help
It can be very difficult to take the first step to seek help, but treatment can help individuals get better and better manage symptoms.
- Talk with family members or friends about your symptoms
- If you are unsure where to go for help, ask your family doctor
- Mental health specialists, health maintenance organizations, community mental health centers, outpatient clinics and university health centers, peer support groups are all great resources for finding help.
- An emergency room doctor may also be able to provide temporary help and can tell you where and how to seek further help.