Bipolar Disorder

What is Bipolar Disorder?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder consisting of intense emotional states called mood episodes, mania/hypomania (abnormally happy or irritable mood) and depression (sad mood), that last days to weeks at a time. This disorder causes changes in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function.

Living with Bipolar disorder, especially undiagnosed and untreated, can be challenging. It is an illness that is often misunderstood. As a community, it is important that we try to learn about it and recognize it in order to create a safe space for those who are struggling with it. Most are surprised to find out that bipolar disorder is common in highly intelligent and creative types.

Let us have a discussion and learn more about Bipolar.

The following are a list of the most common questions with our best clinical answers. We believe this information will be helpful as you learn more about bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is an episodic condition in which a person cycles between two or more mood extreme states, including either mania, hypomania, or a mixed state. These mood changes are often confusing to both the person with the disorder as well as outsiders looking in, given there seems to be no specific reason for the shift (swing).

Bipolar Disorder consists of extreme, often unpredictable, mood swings defined as manic, hypomanic or major depressive states.

Bipolar 1 Disorder—presents with manic episodes and nearly always with major depressive and hypomanic episodes.

Bipolar 2 Disorder—presents with at least one hypomanic episode, at least one major depressive episode and the absence of manic episodes.

Mania consists of an abnormally elevated, irritable and labile mood which consists of feeling unusually good or euphoric. It is a heightened sense of self. The euphoric feeling causes a person to feel like they can do, be, and conquer anything which can lead to risky, impulsive or reckless behavior. This behavior lasts at least 1 week and can last up to a few months. These episodes cause marked impairment and are typically followed by a ‘crash’ causing major depression.

Common symptoms of mania include:

  • Grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Excessive risky activity
  • Extreme irritability with no obvious trigger
  • Racing thoughts
  • More talkative than usual
  • Behavior or reactions that are situationally inappropriate
  • Increase in goal-directed activity

With hypomania, the episodes (shifts or swings), are less severe than mania, and do not last as long. This can make getting a diagnosis more difficult. Hypomanic episodes, although less severe, can still impair a person’s personal and professional life.

In unipolar depression a person stays consistently in a depressive state. There is no associated mania or hypomania (elevated mood) like there is with Bipolar depression. People with Bipolar will often spend most of their time in a depressed state but can have extreme changes in mood. During a depressive episode, people with Bipolar can switch to having elevated energy, feeling irritable or having a sense of euphoria followed by feeling depressed once again. A key difference is the length of time someone is in a particular emotional state, and the ability to “swing” between both depressive and manic/hypomanic states. These swings last two or more weeks and typically cause some type of fallout socially or professionally. Simply defined, the ability to swing from one extreme mood to the other is the marked difference for someone with Bipolar depression and Depression.

A mixed state means there is a presence of both high and low symptoms occurring at the same time, mania or hypomania and depression.

Feelings expressed by individuals living with bipolar disorders

  • Excessively elevated mood either up or down making you the life of the party or the mouse in the corner

  • Confusion and not knowing how to plan because of uncertainty of what mood they will be in

  • Feeling trapped by the swings; a prisoner when they are bad, an escapee when they are good

  • Feeling irritated and out of sorts suddenly, yet knowing their responses are unmerited

  • Getting into uncharacteristic situations and/or relationships and wondering why they did that

  • Feeling on top of the world and having uncharacteristically high levels of energy causing insomnia

  • Confused why they did or said certain things

  • Making decisions that they later regret

  • Feelings of living in a dual reality and wanting to hide or isolate from the world

  • Levels of extreme confidence that can disappear overnight


“For a long time, there has been so much stigma, so much confusion, and so much uncertainty about this illness,” said Eric A. Youngstrom, PhD, a professor of psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who studies bipolar disorder

Treatment

Treatment will include many factors including working on creating healthy habits. Medication is a key solution to properly treat Bipolar Disorder.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms or have already been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and want further help with treatment, please schedule your tele-med or in office appointment with us today. You deserve to live your best life.

Our team's expertise and caring nature is the recipe for success in each patient's path to mental wellness and recovery. You can rest assured our Raleigh Psychiatrist and mental health providers at Medpsych Integrated will help you improve the quality of your life.

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