Everything You Should Know About Bipolar Disorder

What Is Bipolar?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is characterized by mood swings that are both above and below what is considered a “normal” mood. These highs and lows are known as mania and depression, respectively. 

If you think of one’s mood on a spectrum, manic symptoms are at the very top, depressive symptoms at the very bottom, and a stable mood in the middle. There are also moods in between known as hypomania and mild to moderate depression.

Bipolar 1 vs Bipolar 2

Depending on your symptoms, you may have a diagnosis of bipolar I disorder or bipolar II disorder. To be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, you must have had at least one manic episode. The diagnosis of bipolar II disorder requires at least one depressive episode and one hypomanic episode.

The causes of bipolar disorder are due to several factors. One factor is genetics. You are more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder if a first-degree relative, such as a parent, also has it. Drug use and trauma are also risk factors for developing bipolar disorder. Other causes are biological, which are still being researched today by scientists.

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Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of mania include feeling excessively happy or “high”, getting very little sleep but still having lots of energy for days at a time, poor decision making, rapid speech, impulsiveness, racing thoughts, and having a more exaggerated sense of well-being. Severe mania may also include hallucinations or delusions.

Signs and symptoms of depression include feeling sad or hopeless, loss of interest in things that used to be pleasurable, poor sleep (either too much or not enough), poor appetite (weight gain or weight loss), loss of energy, poor concentration, thoughts of worthlessness or guilt, and thoughts of suicide. Not all people diagnosed with bipolar disorder have the same symptoms.

Additionally, for a diagnosis of bipolar I, the symptoms must occur almost daily for at least a week and impact one’s day-to-day life activities. For hypomania, the symptoms must occur at least four consecutive days out of a week.

Living with Bipolar

Living with bipolar disorder can be very difficult and a multitude of treatments may be necessary to manage symptoms. By putting off treatment, you risk complications such as drug use, legal troubles, relationship deterioration, job performance decline, and suicide attempts or completion. To prevent your bipolar disorder symptoms from worsening, consider meeting with a psychiatrist for an evaluation and to discuss medications. Medications should be taken regularly as directed for the best benefit.

Obtaining counseling is also extremely beneficial. Counseling can teach you coping mechanisms for stressors, how to maintain adequate sleep and proper nutrition, communication skills, as well as help you track your symptoms. Counselors can also provide case management support, which is helpful when you need more community-based services such as help with housing or transportation to appointments.

Managing your mental illness may seem like a daunting task, but receiving support is essential to maintain your day-to-day functioning and be the best version of yourself.

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