What is Bipolar Disorder?

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder, commonly referred to as Manic Depression, is a condition where the individual experiences fluctuating moods between extreme highs and lows. These mood fluctuations are known as manic episodes (highs) and depressive episodes (lows), which can occur on a continuous cycle, if left untreated. Typically, the onset of Bipolar Disorder is around the age of 25 and occurs equally in both genders. A Bipolar Disorder diagnosis should be established by a licensed professional who can make appropriate treatment recommendations based on the presented symptoms. Depending on the severity of symptoms, treatment of Bipolar Disorder can take place in Residential Treatment Centers or in an Intensive Outpatient Treatment setting. The first goal of Residential or Inpatient Treatment Centers is to stabilize an individual’s mood with the least amount of medication as possible. Once this goal has been attained, treatment for Bipolar Disorder should focus on identifying any personal conflicts that are making the individual increasingly vulnerable to emotional instability. Part of the struggle with Bipolar Disorder is that everything is experienced to an extreme degree, including anxiety, depression or other emotions. The most effective bipolar treatment looks beyond the daily challenges people face and uncover long-term underlying issues that can be resolved through treatment.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder can differ based on the individual. For example, there may be cycles of manic and depressive episodes, followed by prolonged periods of having no symptoms. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, approximately 83% of Bipolar Disorder cases are categorized as severe. In severe cases, manic or depressive episodes can be concurrent with psychotic symptoms such as auditory or visual hallucinations or delusions. If Bipolar Disorder has not previously been diagnosed by a licensed professional, these symptoms are sometimes misdiagnosed as other mental health disorders such as Depression or Schizophrenia. Before a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis is confirmed, there must be at least one manic or hypomanic episode. Hypomania is a less intense version of mania and may occur frequently or rarely, depending on the individual. These episodes may catalyze irritability, impulsivity, and risky behavior. Through psychoeducation, people are able to learn “red flag” behaviors that will help them manage their symptoms, such as suicidal ideation. Depressive states may cripple the individual to the point that they are unable to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get out of bed. Furthermore, one may experience intense feelings of failure, negative thoughts, or guilt. The cause of Bipolar Disorder is actively being researched and have thus far indicated that various factors may contribute to the onset of this disorder, including: genetics, stress, and brain function.

Psychoeducation is an imperative part of treatment planning for individuals with Bipolar Disorder to understand their condition and their increased risk of suicidal ideation. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help individuals challenge flawed behavior patterns. Additionally, therapy sessions involving family members will help create a supportive environment, improve communication skills, and prevent relapses.

Written by Mashal Rezai
Intake Coordinator, Balance Treatment Center

References
NAMI. (2017, August). https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-conditions/bipolar-disorder

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