How Do U Know If U Have Bipolar Depression – Do you have periods when you feel unusually “excited” (happy, outgoing, or irritable) but also “down” (extremely sad or anxious)? Do you have increased energy or activity and less need for sleep during your “up” periods, while during your “down” periods you experience low energy, hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal thoughts? Are these symptoms of fluctuating mood and energy levels bothering you or interfering with your daily functioning? Some people with these symptoms have a lifelong but treatable mental illness called bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that can be chronic (persistent or recurrent) or episodic (occurring sporadically and irregularly). People sometimes refer to bipolar disorder by the older term “manic-depressive disorder” or “manic-depressive disorder.”
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Everyone experiences normal mood ups and downs, but bipolar disorder can have a wide range of mood swings. People with this disorder experience manic episodes or unusually elevated mood, and patients may feel very happy, irritable, or “on” with a significant increase in activity levels. They may also have depressive episodes, feel sad, apathetic or hopeless and have very low activity levels. Some people have hypomanic episodes that are similar to manic episodes but are not severe enough to cause significant impairment in social or occupational functioning or require hospitalization.
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Most of the time, symptoms of bipolar disorder begin in late adolescence or early adulthood. Sometimes children may experience symptoms of bipolar disorder. Although symptoms may come and go, bipolar disorder usually requires lifelong treatment and does not go away on its own. Bipolar disorder can be an important factor in suicide, job loss, inability to work, and family discord. However, proper treatment can improve function and quality of life.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary. People with this disorder may have manic episodes, depressive episodes, or “mixed” episodes. Mixed episodes have both manic and depressive symptoms. These mood episodes can cause symptoms to last a week or two, sometimes longer. During an attack, symptoms last most of the day, every day. Emotions are intense and accompanied by changes in behavior, energy levels, or activity levels that others may notice. Mood usually returns to a healthy baseline between episodes. But in many cases, without adequate treatment, attacks can become more frequent over time.
Some people with bipolar disorder may have milder symptoms than others. For example, hypomanic episodes can make people feel really good and productive; they see nothing wrong. However, family and friends may notice mood swings and changes in activity levels as abnormal behavior, and episodes of depression may accompany hypomanic episodes.
People are diagnosed with three basic types of bipolar disorder, with marked changes in mood, energy and activity levels. These emotions range from manic episodes to depressive episodes.
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“Other specified and unspecified bipolar disorder and related disorders” refers to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder symptoms that are inconsistent with the three major types of bipolar disorder described above.
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. However, research suggests that multiple factors may work together to cause the disorder.
Bipolar disorder often runs in families, and studies have shown that much of it can be explained by genetics—people with certain genes are more likely than others to develop bipolar disorder. Many genes are involved, and no single gene can cause the disorder.
But genes are not the only factor. Studies of identical twins have shown that one twin may develop bipolar disorder while the other does not. Although a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder is more likely to develop the disorder, most people with a family history of bipolar disorder do not develop the disorder.
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Research suggests that the brain structure and function of people with bipolar disorder may differ from those who do not have bipolar disorder or other mental disorders. Understanding the nature of these brain changes helps researchers better understand bipolar disorder and, in the future, may help predict what type of treatment is best for people with bipolar disorder.
To diagnose bipolar disorder, a health care provider may perform a physical exam, order medical tests to rule out other disorders, and refer the patient to a mental health professional for evaluation. Bipolar disorder is diagnosed based on the severity, duration, and frequency of symptoms and a person’s lifetime experiences.
Some people have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for many years for a variety of reasons. People with bipolar II disorder may seek help only for depressive episodes, while hypomanic episodes may go unnoticed. Because some symptoms of bipolar disorder resemble other disorders, misdiagnosis can occur. For example, a person with bipolar disorder who also has psychotic symptoms may be misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia. Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disease, can cause symptoms similar to those of bipolar disorder. The effects of recreational and illicit drugs can sometimes mimic or exacerbate mood symptoms.
Many people with bipolar disorder also have other mental disorders or conditions, such as anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), drug or alcohol abuse, or eating disorders. Sometimes people with severe manic or depressive episodes also have psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions. Psychiatric symptoms correspond to a person’s extreme emotions. For example, a person who exhibits psychotic symptoms during a depressive episode may falsely believe that they are financially broke, while a person who exhibits psychotic symptoms during a manic episode may falsely believe that they are famous or possess special powers.
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Looking at symptoms during the illness and a person’s family history can help determine whether a person has another disorder besides bipolar disorder.
Therapy can help many people, even those with the most severe forms of bipolar disorder. Mental health professionals treat bipolar disorder with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of treatments.
Certain medications can help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Some people may need to try different medications to find the one that works best. The most common types of medications doctors prescribe include mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotics. Mood stabilizers such as lithium or valproate can help prevent mood episodes or reduce their severity. Lithium may also reduce the risk of suicide. Although bipolar depression is often treated with antidepressants, mood stabilizers should also be taken, as antidepressants themselves can cause manic episodes or rapid cycling in people with bipolar disorder. Medicines for sleep or anxiety are sometimes added to mood stabilizers as part of a treatment plan.
Talk to your doctor to learn about the risks and benefits of each medication. Report any concerns about side effects to your doctor immediately. Avoid stopping this medication without first talking to your doctor. Read the latest drug warnings, patient drug guides, and information about newly approved drugs on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website.
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Psychotherapy (sometimes called “talk therapy”) is a term for a variety of therapeutic techniques designed to help people identify and change distressing feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Psychotherapy can provide support, education, skills and strategies for people with bipolar disorder and their families.
When medication is used, certain types of psychotherapy can be effective in treating bipolar disorder, including interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, which aims to understand and adapt to a person’s biological and social rhythms. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an important treatment for depression, and CBT for insomnia may be particularly useful as part of treatment for bipolar depression. For more information, visit the Psychotherapy website.
Unlike specific psychotherapies and medications that have been scientifically proven to improve symptoms of bipolar disorder, complementary health approaches to bipolar disorder, such as natural products, are not based on current knowledge or evidence. For more information, visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health website.
Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging, but there are ways to help yourself and your friends and loved ones.
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Remember that bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness, but long-term, ongoing treatment can help manage your symptoms and allow you to live a healthy life.
Support a wide range of research, including clinical trials, to find new ways to prevent, detect or treat diseases and conditions, including bipolar disorder. Although individuals may benefit from participating in clinical trials, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of clinical trials is to gain new scientific knowledge to help others in the future. Researchers across the country are conducting clinical trials with patients and healthy volunteers. Discuss clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether they are right for you with your healthcare provider. For more information, visit the Clinical Trials website.
Provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), this online resource can help you find mental health treatment facilities and programs. Find agencies in your state by searching SAMHSA’s Online Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. For additional resources, visit the Mental Illness Help page.
If you or someone you know is in trouble or wants to get hurt right away,
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