Signs and Symptoms

The National Institute of Health reports that about six million Americans are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder, which used to be known as manic depression, is a mental health disorder marked by atypical changes in mood and activity levels. These symptoms are not the moodiness most people experience occasionally but are severe swings in energy and behavior. On one end of the spectrum, a person with bipolar disorder experiences manic behavior consisting of excessive energy, inflated beliefs about themselves, delusions of grandeur and long periods where they feel that they don’t need sleep. On the other end of the spectrum, that same person will feel extreme depression that is so severe it can lead to suicide.

Bipolar disorder most often appears in a person’s late teens or early twenties but can be diagnosed for the first time in children or in adults later in life. Since the symptoms are in such opposition to each other, many people suffer for years because no one recognizes that the individual symptoms are part of a bigger pattern of behavior. In fact, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, it can take up to 10 years for someone with bipolar disorder to get a proper diagnosis and in turn, get bipolar disorder treatment for their mental illness.

Studies show that women are more often misdiagnosed with depression while men are misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. This means that for a substantial period of time, men and women with bipolar disorder are going without the treatment that they require. By understanding the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, individuals can help encourage medical professionals to consider bipolar disorder while making their diagnosis.

It is important to understand that there is no cure for bipolar disorder. It is a long-term mental illness whose symptoms can be effectively managed with medications and psychiatric care.

Types of Bipolar Disorder that Require Treatment

There are several different types of bipolar disorder that vary based on whether a patient exhibits mania or depression and how rapidly the moods swing between the two extremes. These types include:

Bipolar I Disorder+

Bipolar I Disorder. In this type, mania is favored. Manic episodes last at least seven days and oftentimes the mania is so severe that hospitalization is necessary for the safety of the individual and others. With this type of bipolar disorder, the patient may also have symptoms of depression that last at least two weeks.

Bipolar II Disorder+

Bipolar II Disorder. With this form of the disorder, an individual experiences mostly the symptoms of severe depression. This person may also have hypomania (less severe manic phases), but it never reaches a full-scale manic episode.

Bipolar Not Specified+

Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. This form is diagnosed when an individual doesn’t fit neatly into the diagnostic criteria of Bipolar I or II. This may be because the mania or depression isn’t of a long enough duration or they do not have enough symptoms.

Cyclothymic Disorder+

Cyclothymic Disorder. This is the label for people who experience a mild form of both mania and depression that change back and forth for at least two years. The symptoms are just not severe enough to meet the diagnostic criteria for any of the other forms.

Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder+

This is diagnosed when someone has at least four episodes of depression or mania, or mixed symptoms within a year. This type can cycle quickly so more than one phase is experienced in a single day.

Recognize and Diagnose these Disorders

The shifting moods of an individual with bipolar disorder disrupt normal life activities. In addition to the signs of depression, a person’s mood must also swing to mania as well. The shifts may be mild or severe and may happen slowly over a long period of time or quickly within a day or week. If you are concerned about yourself or someone you love, the list below details the signs of each of the two extremes of mood and behavior an individual will experience if they need help for bipolar disorder.

  • Excessive energy (both physical and mental)
  • Goes long periods with no sleep without fatiguing
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Racing speech and ideas
  • Inflated sense of self
  • Possible delusions of grandeur or hallucinations
  • Poor judgment
  • Aggressiveness
  • Irritability

Are You or a Loved One Bipolar?

A doctor can complete a more thorough medical examination, but there are some signs that are more easily detected by someone close to the individual struggling with mental health disorders. Individuals regularly in the company of the person with bipolar disorder will be in the best position to detect changes in behavior such as the following symptoms:

  1. Feeling either very “high” and optimistic or irritable and depressed. There may be no real transition between the moods as individuals with bipolar disorder can switch rapidly
  2. Higher than usual distraction levels, or an inability to concentrate
  3. Impulsiveness and impaired judgment that can lead to reckless behavior with no thought to the consequences
  4. Unable to sleep much, but with high energy levels remaining
  5. Constant racing thoughts
  6. Unrealistic beliefs about their own skills and powers
  7. In severe cases, delusions and hallucinations may occur

When these signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder begin appearing, it’s important to bring them to the attention of a medical professional so these individuals can begin to receive bipolar disorder treatment benefits. Or, if they are detected by a friend or family member, it may be time to gently broach the subject with the individual suffering from bipolar disorder. A medical or mental health professional can complete a more thorough diagnosis.

Medical Assessment and Diagnosis

There are a number of different things that a medical or mental health professional may do in order to evaluate the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Initially, it is their goal to ensure that the symptoms are not caused by something else other than the condition. A doctor may first order blood tests, a thyroid profile, an EEG, a CT and an MRI depending upon what the specific symptoms. If bipolar disorder is still thought to be the cause, a more complex profile of history and emotional highs and lows will be established.

Getting the Help You Need

The treatment regimen is often used to get further insight into the disease as response to medication, counseling etc can help increase the understanding of the details surrounding a person’s condition. Treatment for bipolar disorder that can further assess the disease includes the following components:

  • Medication. A variety of medications may be tried to reach the right combination to improve the manic/depressive episodes of a bipolar patient. The response to certain medications provides more insight into the condition. According to the Surgeon General Report for Mental Health, the success rate of lithium treatment (one commonly prescribed medication) is anywhere between 40% and 80%.
  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy allows individuals suffering with bipolar disorder to learn how to cope with the effects of the illness, and better regulate their moods. The response to psychotherapy and the techniques that work provide greater exposure to the triggers of the disorder.
  • Creating a structured lifestyle. Treatment can teach individuals how to structure their lifestyle to decrease issues. Sleeping regularly, eating properly, minimizing stress, and avoiding alcohol can make all of the difference. If drastic changes surface, it may indicate that lifestyle played a role in the condition initially.

Diagnosing and effectively finding the right treatment protocol for bipolar disorder can be a process, but with due diligence and education on the part of all involved, mental health treatment is available and can be very successful.

Speak to someone

Fortunately, there are many successful treatment options for bipolar disorder. With the right help, those struggling with bipolar disorder can lead full and productive lives. Call us today and we can connect you with some of the most successful treatment programs for bipolar disorder across the United States. Don’t live one more day in a chaotic world with no balance in sight. Pick up the phone and let us help you find the stability you want and deserve.