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Bipolar Disorders: Warning Signs, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Everyone experiences highs and lows in life. A breakup or losing a job can cause people to feel sad and depressed, while the birth of a child or getting a promotion at work can give people a surge of energy and excitement. For people with bipolar disorder, the cycle of highs and lows is continual and uncontrollable, affecting their mood and behavior to greater extremes than the average person may experience. Luckily, My Psychiatrist offers comprehensive treatment for Bipolar disorder at both of our South Florida locations.

With bipolar disorder, the lows can mean major depressive episodes while the highs, called manic episodes, can make them feel out of control and cause them to engage in high-risk, dangerous behavior. Bipolar disorder was formerly referred to as manic depression because of the cycle of manic episodes and depression.

Types Of Bipolar Disorder

There are many types of bipolar disorders which makes it imperative that each individual finds the right treatment. A mental health professional can provide a diagnosis after an assessment to better treat the bipolar disorder and offer relief from anxiety symptoms here at My Psychiatrist in Florida.

Bipolar I Disorder

People with bipolar I disorder experience mood episodes that last days to weeks at a time. Typically, the manic episodes last around one week or longer and include severe symptoms that might even require hospitalization or professional monitoring to ensure the safety of the individual. The depressive episodes can be more severe and may last for two weeks or longer. However, some people with bipolar I disorder may experience mixed mood episodes in which the manic and depressive symptoms occur simultaneously.

Bipolar II Disorder

People with bipolar II disorder experience mood episodes that include depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes that are not as extreme as the full-blown mania experienced during bipolar I disorder. The hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes may last for days to weeks at a time.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder (Cyclothymia) is when mood episodes are marked by less intense symptoms, but continue over the course of two years or longer. The symptoms are not as extreme as those experienced during manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes during bipolar I or bipolar II disorders, but there are marked changes in mood.

How is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?

In order to receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a person must experience at least one depressive episode or manic/hypomanic episode. A depressive episode, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), is defined by the following criteria:

  • Changes in appetite and/or weight
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicidal plans/attempts
  • Problems concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions

The depressive episode should have at least four of the symptoms listed above and last for two weeks at minimum. A manic episode must last for at least one week and include three or more of the following diagnostic criteria:

  • Little need for sleep
  • High self-esteem
  • Flight of ideas
  • Speaking exceptionally fast
  • Psychomotor agitation (e.g. wringing hands, pacing back and forth)
  • Increased interest in activity or goals
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Increased interest in engaging in activities with high risk

A mental health professional will help determine if a client is struggling with bipolar disorder by running through this list of criteria while also providing questionnaires and speaking directly to the client. 

How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?

Like most mental health conditions, bipolar disorder is most effectively treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. The type of medication and amount of psychotherapy that an individual will begin including in their daily lives will be dependent on the severity of their bipolar disorder. 

Medications

Some of the most common medications used to treat bipolar disorder include the following:

  • Anticonvulsants (gabapentin, topiramate, carbamazepine, divalproex)
  • Antipsychotics (Latuda, Abilify, Seroquel, Risperdol)
  • SSRI’s (Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil)

Psychotherapy

There are several different types of psychotherapy available that can help reduce the symptoms of bipolar disorder, including (but not limited to), the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT)
  • Psychoeducation
  • Family therapy

When treatment for bipolar disorder is obtained, those who are grappling with it can begin living with and coping with it in a healthier, more effective manner.

Living and Coping With Bipolar Disorder

Living and coping with bipolar disorder might seem impossible to someone who is experiencing this disorder because of how difficult it can be to manage. But, when treated, those with bipolar disorder can live productive and fulfilled lives just as any other person can. 

Outside of being treated by professionals, individuals can live and cope with bipolar disorder by utilizing the following skills:

  • Monitor moods (for example, keeping a mood journal to see fluctuations)
  • Follow a schedule 
  • Get enough sleep
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Exercise 
  • Participate in a support group
  • Reduce stress

These skills can be implemented in all settings, allowing for those with bipolar disorder the ability to cope no matter where they are or what time of day it is. 

How to Know When to See a Psychiatrist for Bipolar Disorder

If you are experiencing symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, such as manic and depressive episodes, the most important thing you can do is reach out to a mental health professional. They can not only help treat your bipolar disorder, but they can also provide you with referrals to specialists who can provide even more detailed assistance. 

There is no reason you should be living with untreated symptoms of bipolar disorder when there are several options for care. Should you experience these symptoms, reach out and ask for help. 

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