The term ‘bipolar disorders’ often fills people with concern and fear because these disorders are often portrayed or described as causing volatile behavior, unreliability, and even danger. Bipolar disorders are serious mental health conditions, however, with treatment they do not have to fulfill these feared criteria. In fact, with the correct treatment, bipolar disorders are manageable and people who experience them can have fulfilling lives.
Working against the stigma that has been built against bipolar disorders can be an important element of understanding and coming to terms with a bipolar disorder diagnosis. Speaking to your mental health professional and learning about bipolar disorders can provide you and your support network with accurate information to help you understand your diagnosis.
What Are Bipolar Disorders?
Bipolar disorders are a variety of mental health conditions that typically have symptomology of extreme switches in mood, ability to function, and energy levels. These switches have an impact on the person’s ability to maintain their daily routine and feel in control of themselves.
There are periods between the extreme shifts, where a person’s moods, functioning, and energy levels are stabilized and balanced. These periods are disrupted when there is either a spike or dip in overall functioning of a person.
Bipolar disorders are often biological in nature and a person can be predisposed to developing the disorder by certain chemical levels in their brain, certain brain functioning or neurodiversity, or genetic patterns. Bipolar disorders are usually able to be diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, diagnosis can be made at any time during a person’s lifetime when they meet the criteria of a bipolar mood disorder in the Diagnoistic And Statistical Manual V-TR.
What Are The Different Types Of Bipolar Disorder?
There are four different bipolar disorders that you could be diagnosed with. These would all depend on the symptomology that you experience.
A mixed episode is when there is a combination of depressive and manic symptoms experienced simultaneously for an extended period of time.
How Are Bipolar Disorders Diagnosed?
A diagnosis for a bipolar disorder may be a lengthy process. It is not uncommon to be diagnosed with depression first and a while after this be diagnosed with bipolar. This is because both a depressive and manic/hypomanic episode needs to be experienced for diagnosis to happen.
A medical professional will take an in depth history of your life, your family, your experiences, and a medical history. This will assist them in determining whether you have experienced both types of episodes and the duration of these episodes.
Providing your medical professional with all the information you can is helpful because it creates a clearer picture of your experience. Remember the medical professional can only work with the information given to them.
If you feel that you may be experiencing a bipolar disorder it is important to reach out to a medical professional for assistance because if left untreated, bipolar disorders can create extreme distress, job loss, relational conflict, and damage in your life.
How Are Bipolar Disorders Treated?
Bipolar disorders need to be treated with the individual in mind, which means you may have to experiment with different treatments to find the one that works for you. A key element in treating bipolar disorders is consistancy. Often when the treatment plan is working and the person feels better, they stop or cut down on their treatment. This can then cause the resurgance of an episode.
Bipolar disorder treatments are usually threefold: medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle maintenance.
Your medical practitioner will most likely prescribe medication to help stabilize your moods and support the chemical balance in the brain. You may need to try a few medications, or a combination of medications before you find the one that works for you. Often medication takes 4 to 8 weeks to make a difference. This usually means you will need to be patient during the first few weeks on a new medication and report your experience back to your medical practitioner.
Seeing a mental health professional can help you process the diagnosis, the experience of the episodes, and learn new coping skills. These skills will assist you in keeping the time between episodes balanced and hopefully extend them as well. Regular psychotherapy assists you in regulating yourself and your experiences to lessen the impact that stressors will have on you. Psychotherapy can also help you discover what experiences will incite an episode. These could include extreme fatigue, increased caffeine intake, extreme stress, a traumatic event, etc.
Active participation in maintaining a healthy lifestyle is beneficial to managing bipolar disorder. There are simple routines and habits that you can practice that enhances the overall quality of life and reeduces the chances of an episode.
These could be:
- Getting enough sleep through a regular sleep schedule.
- Limiting caffeine throughout the day.
- Limiting or removing substances such as alcohol and other recreational drugs.
- Including exercise regularly throughout the week.
- Tracking your mood so that you are self-aware if your mood suddenly changes.
- Have a support system in place, made up of people who understand your bipolar disorder and you feel safe reaching out to when you do not feel alright.
While bipolar disorders are serious mental health conditions, with the right support you can live a full and satisfactory life. You do not need to feel isolated or out of control when your episodes are well managed.
At Insightful Psychiatry we are here to help you gain control over your bipolar disorder and regain the quality of your life. Reach out to us an make an appointment, we are here to support you.