Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, previously labeled as manic depression, is one of the most misunderstood mental health disorders. Those diagnosed with it are commonly stereotyped as unstable and moody. These descriptions of this disorder are dismissive and stigmatizing – and the only purpose they serve is making it harder on those who suffer. Bipolar disorder is characterized by two extreme mood swings consisting of emotional highs and deep lows. However, these periods of highs and lows don’t happen around the clock.

While mood swings can happen to anyone, those with bipolar disorder typically suffer from acute versions of both depression and mania. Unlike mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, bipolar disorder is considered a long-term condition. It’s important that it’s taken very seriously. Left untreated, the disorder can affect every area of life and lead to substance abuse, financial problems, and even suicide. Fortunately, with proper treatment, bipolar disorder is manageable and those who suffer from it can live happy, stable, and fulfilling lives. If you believe you or a loved one might be struggling with bipolar disorder, our fully qualified psychologists and counselors here at Dr. Messina & Associates are here and want to help you succeed.

 

3 Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can be experienced in a range of different ways. There are 3 different types of bipolar disorder, and they can range in severity depending on the individual. Regardless of the severity or frequency, bipolar disorder should be taken seriously, and it’s always recommended to seek treatment.

Bipolar I Disorder

Those with bipolar 1 will experience manic episodes that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. The severity of the episode can also sometimes lead to hospitalization. Most people also suffer from depressive episodes, and often there will be a pattern of cycling between the two. However, bipolar 1 is still possible without depressive episodes.

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar 2 is characterized by hypomania, which is considered a milder form of mania. Bipolar 2 similarly cycles between episodes of hypomania and depression. It can be more difficult to identify bipolar 2, but it is just as important to get treated.

Cyclothymic disorder

Cyclothymia is characterized by a constant cycle between hypomania and depression. The episodes of this classification are more frequent, but the symptoms are always milder. Those with cyclothymia don’t experience major depressive disorder. Because of the mild nature of the episodes, cyclothymia is also more difficult to identify. While symptoms are not as extreme, they compound over time. Avoiding treatment of cyclothymia can lead to bipolar disorder.

 

Common Symptoms of Manic Episodes

 

Common Symptoms of Depressive Episodes

 

Managing Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder affects our mood, energy level, and behavior, which can be a great detriment to our quality of life. Most people who suffer end up getting treatment. Given the long-term quality of bipolar disorder, an ongoing relationship with a psychiatrist is important. However, there are actionable steps that can be taken outside of professional treatment that can help prevent episodes and decrease their frequency and intensity.

Educate yourself

Knowledge is power. It’s tough to help yourself from a place of ignorance. The more you learn about your condition, the better equipped you’ll be to handle obstacles along the way.

Track your symptoms

Monitoring your moods and symptoms over time will help you manage symptoms, and over time you’ll get a better sense of when you’re about to experience an episode. Not only will this allow you to make proactive decisions, but your psychiatrist can use the information to better help you on your journey. Thankfully if you struggle with documenting things, there are apps that do most of the work for you, like the eMoods Bipolar Mood Tracker.

Initiate coping skills

It’s a good idea to establish coping skills that you can default to when you sense an episode developing. You can use mindfulness exercises, journaling, or any activity that helps you remain calm. Establishing them beforehand will help when you’re feeling a lack of control and making decisions is out of the question.

Establish a routine

Bipolar disorder can easily leave you feeling helpless and out of control. Having a solid routine is especially important for those with this condition. Bipolar is a brain-based disorder. Routine and stability give your mind a sense of control so that it can continue to regulate your emotions.

Take care of your health

Diet, sleep, and exercise are important for anyone, but they are a lifeline for someone with bipolar disorder. A lack of sleep can even trigger a manic episode. Staying on top of your health can help reduce the frequency and severity of episodes.

 

Seeking Treatment

Whether your experience of bipolar disorder is mild or extreme, treatment is crucial for living out your best life. If you are struggling with symptoms, please don’t hesitate to reach out for support. We strive to enhance your quality of life and help you find healing.

Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you. Our Psychologists and Counselors specialize in psychotherapy (in-person and online teletherapy options). Our psychologists also specialize in psychological testing in-person at our DFW (Southlake) Offices. Our psychiatrists offer specialized psychiatric services in-person and telepsychiatry online to all residents of Texas. If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are available to help.

Author
Dr. Michael Messina

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