What is Bipolar Disorder and How Can It Be Treated?
Bipolar Disorder is tricky. It is hard to diagnose because the symptoms mirror many depressive disorders and because of this, many patients receive an incorrect diagnosis when first seeing their psychiatrists. Sometimes it can take a professional more than three visits to properly diagnose someone with this disorder. Another complication with diagnosing it stems from the fact that it doesn’t manifest itself the same way in every patient. The symptoms can range from anxiety, rage, and sadness all the way to impulsive and manic behaviors such as overspending and compulsive shopping. Bipolar disorder differs between the sexes with women suffering from more depressive episodes versus men who suffer from more manic episodes. Patients often times lose interest in things they were once passionate about, experience fatigue due to interruptions in their typical sleep patterns, and experience changes to their appetites.
Bipolar Disorder is categorized into 4 different types.
The first is Bipolar I
Bipolar I is a sub-type where the patient experiences mania including an extremely elevated mood accompanied by insomnia. This is often times coupled with a hypo-manic or depressive episode either directly preceding or following the manic episode.
The second sub-type is Bipolar II
This is considered a more mild form of the disorder and is characterized by hypo-mania (a less disabling version of mania).
Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS)–diagnosed when symptoms of the illness exist but do not meet diagnostic criteria for either bipolar I or II. However, the symptoms are clearly out of the person’s normal range of behavior. Cyclothymic Disorder, or Cyclothymia–a mild form of bipolar disorder. People with cyclothymia have episodes of hypomania as well as mild depression for at least 2 years. However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for any other type of bipolar disorder.
It is unknown why but people with bipolar disorder tend to self treat their disorder with drugs and alcohol. The use may help alleviate the symptoms but only for a short time and then the substance abuse will only help prolong the symptoms and behavioral control problems. Also with bipolar disorder, if left untreated it can worsen.
Some treatment options include mood stabilizers including Lithium or Lamictal. These medications help with both the depressive and manic components of the disorder and are often coupled with antidepressants. A patient taking antidepressants should be carefully monitored by a healthcare professional at all times. Therapy is another successful type of treatment. Having a supportive network is key to dealing with any form of mental illness. Lastly and most importantly being educated about the disorder and making life changes to avoid relapse is crucial to dealing with the disorder. This means avoiding a lack of sleep and intoxicating substances at all costs.
If you are living with a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder you do understand how it affects you. The best thing you can do to help yourself and loved one is to get them the right diagnosis and treatment and make sure that they follow the proper regime instructed by their doctor. Your loved one MUST and should always stay in treatment and when they are having a “good” experience with mania episode they will feel like they do not need any more help and stop therapy and stop taking their medications. This will most definitely lead to severe behavioral changes. We have done many interventions that were conducted on people with bipolar disorders and them not wanting to continue treatment or take medication because “they do not need it anymore and do not think that it works”.
How can you Help?
- Give support via emotional, understanding and patience
- Educate yourself on bipolar disorders
- Talk to them and make sure you listen carefully (it will help you understand the way they think and how certain situations can trigger symptoms)