Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects millions of people around the world. It’s characterized by sudden shifts in mood, energy, and behavior, and these bipolar cycles can vary in length and severity. Ultimately, they can be confusing and distressing for those who experience them. In this blog post, we’ll explore what bipolar disorder is, its symptoms, types, causes, diagnosis, treatment, coping mechanisms, and the importance of seeking help.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings. These swings can range from manic episodes of high energy and elation to depressive episodes of low energy and sadness. Some people with bipolar disorder also experience mixed episodes, where they feel both manic and depressive symptoms at the same time.
Bipolar disorder affects people of all ages, genders, and races. It’s estimated that around 2.8% of the US population has bipolar disorder, which is roughly six million people. The condition can be managed with proper treatment and support.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is divided into three types based on the severity of symptoms and frequency of episodes:
- Bipolar I Disorder: involves experiencing at least one manic episode and one depressive episode.
- Bipolar II Disorder: involves experiencing at least one depressive episode and one hypomanic episode (a less severe form of mania).
- Cyclothymic Disorder: involves experiencing symptoms of hypomania and depression for at least two years.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
The exact causes of bipolar disorder are not fully understood, but there are several factors that can contribute to its development:
- Biological Factors: genetics, brain chemistry, and hormones can all play a role.
- Environmental Factors: stressful life events, trauma, and substance abuse can trigger bipolar disorder.
- Psychological Factors: personality traits, coping mechanisms, and childhood experiences can also contribute to the development of bipolar disorder.
Symptoms of Bipolar Cycles
There are three types of episodes that people with bipolar disorder experience throughout their bipolar cycles: manic, depressive, and mixed. Here are some of the symptoms of each:
Manic Episode Symptoms:
- Feeling very happy, irritable, or restless
- Increased energy, talking fast, and being easily distracted
- Decreased need for sleep
- Risky behavior such as overspending, drug abuse, or promiscuous behavior
Depressive Episode Symptoms:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or guilty
- Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Fatigue, insomnia, or oversleeping
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
Mixed Episode Symptoms:
- Feeling both manic and depressive symptoms at the same time
- Feeling agitated, restless, or irritable
- Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Having racing thoughts or speaking rapidly
Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder
If you suspect that you or someone you know may have bipolar disorder, it’s important to seek a professional diagnosis. A mental health professional will assess your symptoms and medical history to determine if you meet the criteria for bipolar disorder. A proper diagnosis is essential because the treatment for bipolar disorder varies depending on the type and severity of the condition.
To receive a diagnosis, a provider will provide a physical exam to rule out any medical conditions or current medications that may be causing symptoms. They will also do a psychological evaluation to assess your symptoms as well as your and your family’s history of mental illness. They may also ask you to chart your moods to track the frequency, type, and severity of mood swings.
Treating Bipolar Disorder to Reduce Bipolar Cycles
After receiving an official diagnosis from a mental health professional, the treatment they recommend will depend on what type of bipolar disorder you have as well as the severity of symptoms. However, the most common treatment options include a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.
Medications can be used to help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. The most common medications used to treat bipolar disorder include:
- Mood stabilizers: such as lithium, valproic acid, and carbamazepine.
- Antidepressants: such as fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline.
- Antipsychotics: such as aripiprazole, olanzapine, and risperidone.
It is crucial to work with your healthcare provider to determine which medication is right for you, as different medications can have different side effects.
Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy” or just “therapy”, can be an effective treatment option for bipolar disorder. Therapy can help you identify and manage triggers that can lead to mood swings, develop coping strategies, and improve communication skills. Some types of psychotherapy that may be beneficial for people with bipolar disorder include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT).
In addition to medication and therapy, making lifestyle changes can also be helpful in managing bipolar disorder. Some lifestyle changes that may be beneficial include:
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol: Substance abuse can trigger bipolar symptoms and interfere with treatment.
- Getting enough sleep: Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
- Exercising regularly: Regular exercise can help improve your mood and reduce stress.
- Practicing mindfulness: Activities like journaling, meditation, or yoga can help your overall well-being.
Coping with Bipolar Cycles
While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, there are many things you can do to help manage your symptoms and prevent mood swings. Some coping strategies that may be helpful include:
Identifying Triggers for Bipolar Cycles
Keeping a mood journal can help you identify what triggers your mood swings. Once you have identified your triggers, you can take steps to avoid or manage them.
Developing Coping Strategies for Bipolar Cycles
Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or yoga can help reduce stress and improve mood. Other coping strategies that may be helpful include:
- Talking to a trusted friend or family member
- Engaging in hobbies or activities that you enjoy
- Seeking professional help when you need it
Building a Support System
Connecting with others who understand what you are going through can be incredibly helpful when you are living with bipolar disorder. Some ways to build a support system include:
- Joining a support group
- Attending therapy or counseling sessions
- Talking to your friends and family about your condition
Bipolar disorder is a treatable condition, and with the right support and resources, you can lead a healthy, fulfilling life. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, it is essential to seek professional help, and we are here to support you. Our expert providers will work with you to create a customized treatment plan to help you find relief. Call or text us today at 844-867-8444 to get the support you deserve.