Bipolar Disorder

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Condition updated on October 18th, 2018

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is among the most common of mood disorders. It is a disorder that affects a person’s life in many different ways. It causes emotional, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms that can be difficult to cope with on a daily basis.

With bipolar disorder, a patient experiences extreme highs and lows in mood. These highs and lows are referred to as:

  • Mania. A state of extreme energy and erratic behavior.
  • Hypomania. A state of heightened energy and mildly erratic behavior that is not as severe as mania.
  • Depression. An intense sadness, numbness or lack of interest in engaging with life.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are three major types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I: Experiencing manic and depressive episodes.
  • Bipolar II: Experiencing hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes. (A hypomanic episode is a less intense form of a manic episode.)
  • Cyclothymic Disorder: A condition in which a person experiences mood swings that are less intense than bipolar I and II. Cyclothymic disorder will cause hypomanic and depressive mood swings. These highs and lows will be experienced less often and with less intensity than Bipolar I and II.

Each of these types result in emotional distress and have the potential to be damaging to the affected person’s quality of life.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Symptoms of bipolar disorder include:

  • Insomnia or sleep issues
  • Changes in weight and appetite
  • Psychotic episodes (hallucinations and delusions)
  • Lack of self-awareness
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Episodic depressed symptoms (Loss of appetite, extreme sadness, despondence, feelings of hopelessness, etc.)
  • Episodic manic symptoms (states of extreme energy, changes in appetite, grandiose thoughts, bouts of extreme motivation, impulsivity, racing thoughts, lowered inhibitions, irritability)
  • Difficulty coping with stress
  • Inability to focus on tasks
  • Lack of interest in enjoyable activities
  • Dangerous, impulsive or promiscuous behavior
  • Paranoia

Each episode of bipolar disorder causes different symptoms that have a major impact on a patient’s overall health and wellness. A person with bipolar disorder will often struggle with life challenges, including:

  • Emotional regulation
  • Relationships
  • Academic and career issues
  • Substance abuse
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Socialization issues

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

There are several different contributing factors that can cause bipolar disorder. Patients develop bipolar disorder for different reasons, like:

  • Genetics
  • Environmental Influences
  • Upbringing
  • Child development
  • Biological Factors

Effects of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder causes emotional distress and has the potential to be damaging on the patient’s quality of life. Many people with bipolar disorder face many life struggles, including:

  • Relationship issues. Relationships are often affected with bipolar disorder. The mood swings cause the patient to behave in ways that sometimes seems confrontational or alarming to others, causing strained relationships.
  • Societal misconceptions. Many people understand bipolar disorder to be a dangerous disorder, causing them to believe that patients with bipolar disorder are dangerous. Others believe that bipolar disorder is used as an excuse for the way that patients behave. With these misconceptions, it is easy for patients with bipolar disorder to feel alienated from society.
  • Self-image and emotional issues. Bipolar disorder creates many feelings that are difficult for the patient to understand. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder may feel out of control of their emotions or behavior, causing them to feel hopeless to ever be ‘normal’. They may also develop a poor self-image, as they begin to feel misunderstood or stereotyped by others who do not understand what they are going through.
  • Stress management. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder have a difficult time managing stressful situations. Due to the chemical imbalances in the brain, the patient’s perception of stress can be affected, causing the patient to develop poor stress management skills.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

From extensive research, professionals have found success in treating patients with a combination of psychiatric medication and therapy. Psychiatric medication addresses the chemical imbalances associated with bipolar disorder. Therapy aims to address the behavioral issues and other challenges that bipolar disorder creates for the affected person.

Common forms of therapy include:

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