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Bipolar Disorder

What is Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depressive Illness)?
Bipolar disorder, sometimes called manic-depressive disorder, is a disorder that results in major mood changes. These are not simple ordinary fluctuations in mood. These repeating mood changes often range from the lows of depression (excessive sadness) to the highs of mania (feeling elated, excessive energy, impulsive behaviors) and hypomania (excessive energy) in between. Because of these dramatic shifts in mood, bipolar disorder can result in relationship problems, school or work problems.  Often, people may feel stuck due to frequent mood cycling. 

Bipolar I disorder involves recurrent episodes of mania and depression.  Some people develop Bipolar II disorder; they never develop severe mania but instead experience milder episodes of hypomania that alternate with depression. When four or more episodes of illness occur within a 12-month period, a person is said to have rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. Some people experience multiple episodes within a single week, or even within a single day. Rapid cycling tends to develop later in the course of illness and is more common among women than among men.

Untreated bipolar disorder often leads to being hospitalized, experiencing increasingly irrational thinking that results in dangerous behavior, and a risk of suicide. It can also result in engaging in “pie in the sky” business ventures, spending sprees, gambling sprees, or sexual indiscretions. Cyclothymia, is a lower-level (without the extremes) form of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder can disrupt all aspects of a person’s life. However, with proper treatment people can learn to manage their moods and behaviors and live successful and fulfilling lives.

Bipolar disorder has no known cure and must be treated on a long-term basis.  Sometimes depressed people on medication start feeling better and will go off their medication. Or, manic patients who are taking medication will miss the euphoric feeling and will stop their medication in order to return to their elated state. It is important to remember that this is a life-long disorder that will only get worse if not properly treated.  

How Prevalent is Bipolar Disorder?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 5.7 million American adults have bipolar disorder. The majority of people first notice symptoms between ages 15 to 30 years. It is uncommon, but not unheard of to develop the first symptoms of bipolar as a child. Bipolar disorder is about as equally common in men and women. 

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
The specific cause of bipolar disorder is not clear. The problem is believed to be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Research suggests that specific bipolar episodes can be triggered by stressful events. Bipolar disorder also tends to run in families, though it has not been proven to be entirely genetic.

How Do I Know if I Need Help?
Despite the mood extremes, people with bipolar disorder often don't recognize how much their emotional instability or their irrational or risky behavior disrupts their lives and the lives of those around them. Often times, people with bipolar disorder enjoy the feelings of the highs of mania and the feeling of seemingly endless energy. One big problem is that these “highs” can result in bad decisions and are always followed by an “emotional crash” that can leave the person depressed and in despair. If you are experiencing repeated or severe mood swings, you need to seek help because bipolar disorder will not improve without proper treatment. 

What Are Some of the Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
The primary symptoms of bipolar disorder are dramatic and unpredictable mood swings that can cause problems in many areas of your life. When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts in the other direction, you may feel elated, euphoric and full of energy, but act impulsively or make dangerous decisions without considering the consequences. Your thinking may become overwhelmingly rapid and confused. Mood shifts may occur only a few times a year, or as often as several times a day. 

Getting the Help You Need
A clinical consultation with a licensed mental health professional is necessary in determining whether a person has the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. At OHEL, we provide psychotherapy, medication evaluation and medication management. The treatment of Bipolar disorder most often involves medication treatment, often with mood stabilizers. At OHEL, we provide psychotherapy to people with bipolar disorder that can help them regain control of their lives, by learning how  to change their harmful thought and behavior patterns, identify mood swing triggers, improve communication, and manage their daily routines to protect against future mood swings. 

Remember, at OHEL, we are only a phone call or a click away from your road to recovery.

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