What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder (often referred to as manic depression) is characterized by mood swings and repeated episodes of depression and at least one episode of mania. People who have bipolar disorder often experience significant problems with functioning related to their work life, school life, family life and/or social/relational life.
Associated Disorders to Bipolar Disorders
People who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder are at higher risk for experiencing certain anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and/or phobias. Substance abuse is also very common in people that are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
In addition, research has shown that the suicide rate for people diagnosed with bipolar disorder is about 60 percent higher than the general population, which makes it so imperative for individuals with this diagnosis to get the mental health and medical support they need.
The diagnosis of bipolar disorder means that a person must have experienced at least one manic or hypomanic episode.
The symptoms of a manic episode can include:
- Racing thoughts
- Rapid and/or excessive speech
- Elevated, expansive or irritable mood
- A decreased need for sleep
- Grandiose beliefs (for example, feeling that one has super powers)
- Repeatedly changing topics or talking in a way where nothing seems to be related
- Impulsive behaviors
- Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for problematic consequences (e.g., the person engages in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)
- Poor judgment
- Volatile behavior
- Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation
Hypomanic episodes have the same symptoms as manic episodes, however, the hypomanic mood is different from the person’s usual mood.
The three important distinctions to make between manic episodes and hypomanic episodes are that hypmanic episodes fit the following criteria:
- The mood usually isn’t severe enough to cause problems with the person’s work, home, or social life
- The symptoms usually do not require hospitalization
- There are never any psychotic features present
MAJOR DEPRESSIVE EPISODES
Some people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder also experience major depressive episodes. Such episodes often alternate with manic episodes. Often, the depressive episodes occur more frequently than manic episodes.
People who experience major depressive episodes may experience the following symptoms:
- Persistent depressed or irritable mood
- Decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Change in appetite and sleep patterns
- Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Agitation or lack of activity
- Suicidal thoughts, plans or actions
Causes of Bipolar Disorders
As with many mental health disorders, bipolar disorder is believed to be the result of a combination of psychological, environmental and genetic factors.
Commonality of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder afflicts more than 1% of adults in the United States or up to 4 million people and is the fifth leading cause of disability worldwide.
Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder
Mental health professionals diagnose bipolar disorder by gathering a comprehensive medical, family, and mental health history. Frequently, comprehensive psychological evaluations are conducted to investigate current functioning and to rule out other disorders.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Studies have shown that the most effective treatment for bipolar disorder is a combination of medication management and psychotherapy. While medication can help to stabilize the symptoms of bipolar disorder, talk therapy can help clients learn effective coping mechanisms to deal with the disorder and help people develop effective ways to improve work, school and relational functioning.
Bipolar disorder in children and teens may look different than it does in adults. If you have concerns that your child may be struggling with a mental health disorder, please visit our children’s website for more information.
Schedule An Appointment
To speak with one of our Philadelphia psychologists about Equilibria’s treatment for bipolar disorder call us at (267) 861-3685 or fill out our form