Bipolar disorder, sometimes referred to as manic-depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that causes mood swings, unusual shifts in energy and activity levels and interferes with the ability to perform daily tasks.
There are basically four different types of the disorder, but all involve definite changes in mood and levels of energy and activity. These mood swings range from experiencing periods of extreme elation while exhibiting highly energetic behavior (manic episodes), to feeling very morose and hopeless (depressive episodes). Manic periods that are less severe are referred to as hypomanic episodes.
Categorizing the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar I Disorder: Individual’s manic episodes continue for at least 7 days, or symptoms of mania are so extreme that the individual requires immediate hospitalization. These symptoms are typically accompanied by depressive episodes as well, usually lasting at least 14 days. Sometimes the individual has what’s called depression w/mixed features (feeling depressed and manic at the same time).
Bipolar II Disorder: Individual exhibits a pattern of having depressive and hypomanic episodes, but does not experience full-blown episodes of mania as described above.
Cyclothymic Disorder or Cyclothymia: Individual experiences numerous hypomanic episodes and numerous depressive episodes that last for at least 2 years in adults and 1 year in children and teenagers. However, their symptoms do not fully conform to the diagnostic criteria for hypomanic and depressive episodes.
Other Specified & Unspecified Bipolar & Related Disorders: Individual experiences symptoms of bipolar disorder that do not conform to the three categories described above.
Signs & Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
People suffering from bipolar disorder go through periods of feeling intensely emotional, their sleep patterns change, as do their activity levels, and they behave unusually. These periods are referred to as “mood episodes,” and are drastically different than the moods and types of behavior this person usually experiences. Extreme fluctuations in energy, activity levels and sleep patterns accompany their mood episodes.
On occasion a mood episode will have symptoms of both mania and depression. This describes a mood episode w/mixed features. Individuals experiencing this may feel extreme sadness, hopelessness and empty inside, while simultaneously feeling highly energized.
Individuals can suffer from bipolar disorder even when their mood swings are not as extreme, which is the case when someone experiences hypomania, a milder form of mania. When an individual has a hypomanic episode, they may feel great, function well and be very productive. They may have no idea that anything is wrong with then, but coworkers, friends and family may notice the mood swings and/or fluctuations in activity levels and recognize that these symptoms may be bipolar disorder. Unless the person receives the proper treatment for hypomania, they could develop symptoms of severe mania and/or depression.
Diagnosis & Treatment for the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
With the appropriate diagnosis and proper treatment, someone with bipolar disorder can lead a perfectly healthy and productive life. The first step for someone suspecting he or she may be suffering from bipolar disorder is to see a physician, a psychiatrist or another licensed mental health professional.
If you are experiencing intense mood swings, feelings of despair or symptoms of bipolar disorder, consider out intensive outpatient program for mood disorders. Call us now to schedule an appointment.