More than 14 million people in America will experience Bipolar disorder and its symptoms at some point. This mental health condition can have a significant impact on your quality of life, especially if it is left untreated. There are two types of Bipolar disorder: Bipolar I and II. While these conditions are similar, they are different. Understanding the conditions and treatment options can help you manage the symptoms.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects the chemical balance within the brain and dramatically impacts mood. These chemical imbalance results in extreme mood changes that can include intense highs and lows.
The causes of bipolar can vary from person to person. Some common causes associated with BP include childhood trauma, stressful life events, family history, changes in brain chemistry, and drug or alcohol abuse. Bipolar is a lifelong condition; however, it can be managed using a treatment plan.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Often people with Bipolar disorder experience several mood swings. These can be triggered by emotional changes, lack of sleep, or even physical illness. The symptoms experienced can vary throughout life. However, there are two types of mood swings to look out for: major depressive and mania and hypomania.
Major Depressive Episodes
Major depressive episodes can make it incredibly difficult to engage in daily life. These episodes can impact your work ability, enjoyment of activities, and personal relationships. The symptoms of a major depressive episode include feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, or irritability. People may lose interest in activities they usually enjoy or have difficulty getting pleasure from them.
People usually report a loss of appetite, weight loss, insomnia, or sleeping more than needed. Fatigue, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating or moving are common. People may also experience suicidal thoughts. It is important to note that a depressive episode will include several of these symptoms.
Mania and Hypomania
Mania and hypomania are two types of Bipolar episodes, although they share similar symptoms. Manic episodes tend to be more severe than hypomanic episodes; both cause problems throughout life and trigger psychosis.
The symptoms of mania and hypomania include feeling abnormally upbeat or wired or becoming agitated. People may experience feelings of euphoria. It is common for individuals to try to be actively engaged but also experience difficulty concentrating or focusing. People may have racing thoughts, feel out of control, behave impulsively and make poor decisions. However, the symptoms can vary depending on the type of bipolar disorder.
People with Bipolar I have experienced at least one manic episode during their lifetime. The episode may follow a hypomanic or major depressive episode. For some people, their manic episodes will trigger psychosis. During this time, they will break from reality and can become severely confused and vulnerable. Breaking from reality can be dangerous for individuals and the people around them.
People with Bipolar II have experienced at least one major depressive episode and one hypomanic episode. However, they will never experience a manic episode. Because of this, many people confuse Bipolar II with mild Bipolar I, which is a different diagnosis requiring a different treatment plan.
People with Bipolar II do not experience the intense highs of a manic episode. Instead, their depressive episodes tend to last longer, which can significantly impact their mental health. Both types of Bipolar require careful treatment and monitoring.
Other Disorders Associated With Bipolar Disorder
If you have frequent episodes of hypomania and depression, you may have cyclothymic disorder, categorized as multiple, frequent episodes over two years or less. In comparison, people with Bipolar I or II may only experience two episodes a year. Tracking the frequency of your episodes for your doctor can help distinguish between Bipolar and cyclothymic disorder.
Cyclothymic disorder shares a lot of symptoms with Bipolar. However, you will experience shorter periods of hypomania and depression. One episode will usually follow another, but your mood can feel stable for months between these cycles. If your Bipolar disorder has been caused by medication, drug use, or alcohol, you may also be at risk of developing other medical conditions. These include multiple sclerosis, strokes, or Cushing’s disease.
Bipolar Disorder Treatment Options
Bipolar is a complicated condition to treat. Because of this, most doctors recommend a combination of treatments to help manage the symptoms and their triggers.
Treatment can include:
- Mood stabilizing medication to prevent manic or depressive episodes
- Medication to treat the symptoms of mania or depression when they occur
- Help identify the triggers and signs of manic or depressive episodes
- Psychological treatment, such as therapy, to support you during manic or depressive episodes
- Lifestyle changes to help minimize the triggers and symptoms of your episodes
If you develop psychosis during a manic episode, your doctor may also prescribe antipsychotic medication to help to control hallucinations, delusions, and feelings of anxiety or paranoia.
Get Support Managing Bipolar Disorder
Living with Bipolar disorder can be incredibly difficult, especially without a treatment plan. One common problem that people with Bipolar disorder face is substance abuse. However, it is possible to manage your symptoms and reclaim control of your life with the right support. If you are concerned about the impact that bipolar disorder is having on your life, get in touch with a Comprehensive Wellness Center near you today.