If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, chances are you have a lot of questions.
Even if you have been aware of your diagnosis for some time, there are some things that you may not know or understand about the disorder.
This article will explain important things you need to know about bipolar disorder.
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What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is categorized by unusual and sometimes extreme shifts in mood.
While people who suffer from bipolar disorder do share the commonality of shifting moods, there is more than one type of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I disorder is defined as a person having a least one extreme manic episode that lasts at least seven days. Those who have bipolar I disorder usually experience episodes of depression as well, and may even experience both mania and depression at the same time.
Manic symptoms for people with bipolar I may be severe enough to need immediate hospital care.
Bipolar II Disorder
Bipolar II is defined as a person experiencing at least one extreme depressive episode. They will likely have periods of hypomanic episodes, but won’t experience the extreme manic episodes.
Cyclothymic disorder, sometimes called cyclothymia, is when a person has periods of hypomanic symptoms as well as periods of depressive symptoms. Those who have cyclothymia will experience symptoms for at least one year as a child or adolescent, and at least two years as an adult.
People with cyclothymia experience both depression and mania, but they don’t have severe mania or major depression.
Other or non-specified is defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that don’t match the above categories. For example, the disorder may be induced by drugs and alcohol or may be attributed to other medical conditions like multiple sclerosis or stroke.
in fact bipolar over 5 million people in the US alone are bipolar so you are not alone
How Common is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a fairly common diagnosis. In fact, in the United States, bipolar disorder affects about 5.7 million adults. That’s 2.6% of the U.S. population.
Estimates for how many children or teens are affected is harder to determine. Many young people go undiagnosed as the criteria for diagnosis is still debated. However, research suggests that many as 1.8% of children and adolescents have bipolar disorder.
What are the Signs of Bipolar Disorder?
As mentioned in the previous section, there are several things that categorize bipolar disorder. Depending on the diagnosis, a person may experience an extended manic phase or an extended depressive phase. A person with bipolar disorder may also cycle through both, or have both at the same time.
But what are mania and depression, and what are signs that a person is living through one or both of these phases?
What is the Manic Phase of Bipolar Disorder?
At first, it may seem like a person would want to live in a manic phase. People who have mania may feel good, have a lot of energy, or become very productive. Unfortunately, mania can also be dangerous, frightening, and irritating for others.
A person having a manic episode may have trouble sleeping. They often have difficulty focusing, and they may not be able to communicate well with others. Their thoughts and words can come out so quickly and jumbled that others who are acting on a normal level may not relate to them.
People who are manic may become agitated or irritable, and they may engage in risky behavior like spending a lot of money or having impulsive sex. It’s much easier for someone in a manic episode to make hasty or damaging choices.
In addition, it’s common for people with mania to begin using substances to replicate the feeling they get from their high moments.
In more extreme cases, those who are having trouble controlling their thoughts and actions may end up requiring care at a hospital. The feeling of mania can be very frightening and disorienting at times, especially when thoughts and feelings are happening far too quickly for a person to register them appropriately.
What is the Depressive Phase of Bipolar Disorder?
In many ways, depression is the opposite of mania.
Those who experience depression often have uncontrollable feelings of sadness or helplessness. These feelings are not fleeting and may last for long periods of time.
People who are in a depressive phase may cry over things that wouldn’t ordinarily cause that reaction. They may become consumed with negative thoughts or dwell on things in the past or things they can’t change.
These feelings may make them feel angry, even at things they would normally enjoy. It can be isolating and a person with depression may intentionally pull away from loved ones. During a normal period, they may enjoy going out and seeing people, but often people living through a depressive phase will want to withdraw and stay home alone. They may also want to avoid intimacy with partners or spouses.
They may have periods of fatigue or mental fog. Often those with depression want to stay in bed and have to fight prolonged feelings of exhaustion. Those with depression may find it very difficult to accomplish simple tasks like brushing their teeth or tidying the house.
Those suffering from depression may find it difficult to find joy or pleasure in things that would ordinarily bring happiness. The feelings of helplessness may convince them that they will never reach their personal goals. It can be a very sad and difficult time.
What are the Common Signs of a Mixed Episode?
Sometimes people have signs of both a manic and a depressive episode at the same time. This is sometimes called a mixed bipolar episode.
People who have this may feel sad or hopeless but highly energized at the same time. They may feel irritable with racing thoughts and speech. It may seem impossible to have both things happen at the same time, but it also may mean that they cycle rapidly through the feelings.
One moment they might be crying and the next they may feel like they’re on top of the world. The combination may also lead to unhealthy self-destructive tendencies or self-harm.
What Treatments are Available for People with Bipolar Disorder?
Treatment for bipolar disorder should always be guided by a professional who specializes in the disorder. It’s a lifelong condition and is something that needs ongoing care.
Most people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder are benefitted by a mix of medication and therapy.
For those with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, medication is almost always necessary. Some common choices are:
- Mood stabilizers which are prescribed to treat manic episodes.
- Antidepressants which are prescribed to treat depressive episodes.
- Antipsychotics which are sometimes prescribed to treat episode symptoms.
Finding the right medication for you or your loved one may take time and involves open communication with your doctor.
Many people who have bipolar disorder find it helpful to have someone that can help them manage the disorder.
- Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) teaches individuals how to stabilize daily rhythms. This may include things like sleeping and mealtimes. Establishing a routine is often helpful for people with bipolar disorder.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on identify8ing unhealthy or negative beliefs. Once they are identified, they can be replaced with positive ones. This type of therapy can help people identify what might trigger a bipolar episode and help them manage stressful situations.
- Family-focused therapy is a type of therapy that includes a support system for a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Having a support system can them manage their disorder. It also gives them someone to communicate with and help them recognize the warning signs of an upcoming mood swing.
Life Insurance and Bipolar Disorder
Those who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder can sometimes have trouble getting life insurance. However, it is not impossible to get a life insurance policy.
To start the process, you’ll need to give your medical history with your diagnosis to your insurance agent. Your medical records are private so you will have to facilitate the exchange.
You may have to answer some questions to your insurance provider like when you were last hospitalized and how frequent are your symptoms?
The process may take a month or more for your insurance provider to research your case.
If you’re interested in learning if life insurance is a good fit for you, you can reach out to an agent today.
Learn More Bipolar Disorder
Know that you’re not alone. There are many other people in the world who also have bipolar disorder. If you’re looking for someone to connect with, you can find a support group near you. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has many chapters available across the United States.
They also offer online support groups if there is not one local to you.
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