Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 2.8% of U.S. adults have bipolar disorder. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior, and the ability to think clearly.
There are several types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, and Cyclothymic Disorder. Bipolar I Disorder is defined by manic episodes that last at least seven days or manic symptoms that are so severe that immediate hospital care is needed. Bipolar II Disorder is a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes seen in Bipolar I Disorder. Cyclothymic Disorder involves periods of hypomanic symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least two years (one year in children and adolescents).
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary, but they typically involve shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. During a manic phase, individuals may feel euphoric, full of energy, unusually irritable, have trouble sleeping, display rapid speech, and engage in risky behaviors. During a depressive phase, they may feel sad, hopeless, lethargic, lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, have trouble concentrating, and even have thoughts of death or suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to seek professional help.
The exact cause of bipolar disorder isn’t known, but a combination of genetics, environment, and altered brain structure and chemistry may play a role. Certain factors may increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder, including having a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with the condition. Periods of high stress or traumatic events may trigger a bipolar episode, and in some cases, drug or alcohol abuse can bring on or worsen a bipolar episode.
Diagnosing bipolar disorder involves a detailed assessment by a mental health professional who will ask about your symptoms, their duration, and their impact on your life. This process may include a physical exam, psychiatric assessment, mood charting, and sometimes, specific diagnostic tests. It’s important to note that diagnosing bipolar disorder can be complex and requires a thorough understanding of the person’s mood episodes and their patterns.
If you’re dealing with bipolar disorder, it’s crucial to know that effective treatment options are available. In Atlanta, a number of mental health clinics offer evidence-based treatments for bipolar disorder, including medication management, psychotherapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and family-focused therapy), and lifestyle advice. These treatments aim to stabilize mood swings and related symptoms to help individuals live productive lives. Don’t hesitate to seek help – reach out to a healthcare provider in Atlanta today to start your journey toward managing bipolar disorder.