The struggle of living with Bipolar Disorder (manic-depression) is real, regardless if you are newly diagnosed or have been diagnosed for years. Bipolar Disorder can be a debilitating disorder if left untreated. It can even be hard for people who have been in treatment for years. Bipolar disorder is, more often than not, a genetic disorder. However, it can also be caused by environmental factors such as drug and alcohol abuse, a triggering situation or hormonal problems. The actual definition of bipolar disorder is; a mental disorder marked by alternating periods of euphoria and depression.
There are four main types of Bipolar Disorders; Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Mixed Episodes, and Bipolar Disorder with rapid cycling.
Bipolar I is categorized as:
Have had experienced at least one manic episode, which needs to have lasted for at least a week, or severe enough to have needed to be hospitalized. For roughly 50-60% of people with this type of disorder, they will have also experienced depressive episodes as well. Usually, these tend to have occurred following a manic episode.
Bipolar II is categorized as:
Having this type of bipolar disorder mean you have experienced at least one hypomanic episode and at least one depressive episode in your lifetime. The period of hypomania needs to be at least for, four days.
Mixed Episodes is categorized as:
Having a mixed episode means you have experienced both symptoms or mania and depression at the same time. Your symptoms have had to last for a minimum of a week to be diagnosed with this type. Having feelings of sadness, agitation, irritability and euphoria can occur together at the same time. It sometimes tends to feel like your laughing and crying at the same time.
Rapid Cycling is categorized as:
This type means that you have a diagnosis or either bipolar I or II and that you have experienced four or more episodes within a year. These episodes can occur in any order. Some people may experience more than four episodes of illness in a year. Some people can even experience multiple episodes within a twenty-four hour period.
The major difference between hypomania and mania are that hypomania is a briefer and less intense than mania. Hypomania is not associated with psychosis (the definition of psychosis is; a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with outside reality) or hospitalization. Full blown mania is more severe and at times, requires hospitalization.
Criteria for Hypomania:
- Mood is either elevated and unrestrained or irritable.
- The change in mood lasts for at least four days and is different from normal mood.
- The change of mood is distinct from usual mood and significant enough for others to notice the change. The change of mood is not serious enough to totally impair ability to work or relate to others at this time. No presence of psychosis symptoms.
Criteria for Mania:
- Mood is either elevated and unrestrained or irritable.
- The change in mood lasts for at least a week. Less only if hospitalization is necessary.
- This change in mood is severe with significant difficulties in being able to work and maintain social relationships at this time. Symptoms may be severe enough to require hospitalization and psychosis may be present.
There are many different signs and symptoms that a hypomanic or manic episode is under way. Some of these signs and symptoms are as follows;
Changes in behavior:
- More focused on goals and/or projects.
- Starting more activities, projects, plans, etc… Pretty much overloading yourself with new ideas.
- More outgoing.
- Increased energy levels.
- More active.
- Talking faster and/ more talkative.
- Talking louder than usual.
- Needing less sleep and feeling awake in alert upon waking up.
- Being more reckless than normal.
- Excessive spending.
- Drinking or using drugs.
Changes in feelings:
- Feeling more confident than normal.
- Feeling like you are on top of the world and can accomplish/do anything.
- An increase in your sex drive.
- Feeling more irritable.
- Feeling more anxious than normal.
- Feeling more important and special.
- Feelings of euphoria and elevated mood.
- Feelings like you need to buy more things that you necessarily don’t need but really want at that moment in time.
Changes in thoughts and perception
- Color may seem more vibrant than usual.
- Thoughts of bring more attractive than usual.
- Thoughts of being much better than others.
- Experience some hallucinations and psychosis. (Example: hearing or seeing things that is not really there.)
On the other end of the bipolar spectrum comes depression; A devastating phase that can hurt you the most. Depression can be cruel and mean. At its worst, it can sometimes make you feel like there is no longer a point in living. It can mess with your perception of things, life and your thoughts. Making things seem worse than they truly are.
Some of the signs of depression can be:
- Feeling more irritable and/or anxious than normal.
- Feeling sad or down more often than not.
- Feeling more tired and drained or fatigued.
- Feeling bad about yourself, your appearance, and the things that you do.
- Feeling of guilt or self-blame.
- Feeling worthless.
- Feeling hopeless and helpless.
- Feeling like there is no point to life.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Withdrawing and isolating.
- Increased drinking and/or drug use.
- Changes in appetite.
- Changes in sleep.
- Feeling slow and sluggish.
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or others.
- Feeling like no one understands how you’re feeling or what you are going through.
- Feeling like you don’t want to get out of bed.
- Feeling like you just can’t deal with things anymore.
- Feeling overwhelmed more than usual.
- Feeling numb, like you can no longer feel your emotions or feeling lack of pleasure and joy.
- Negative feelings and self-talk.
- Feeling negative about your future or feeling like you can’t see your future anymore.
If you ever feel suicidal, feel like you are going to hurt yourself or feel like you can’t deal with things anymore; PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention line at 1-888-237-8255. This suicide prevention line is available 24/7, free, and confidential. You do not have to struggle alone. You can also look up your local Warm Line number if you just feel like you need someone to talk to or discuss things with. This is also free and confidential. Or you can go to your nearest hospital and go to the emergency department and tell them you are having thoughts of self-harm and/or are feeling suicidal. You are never alone!
Being bipolar is hard enough to deal with but there is help out there, no matter where you live. Seek out your local mental health office or clinic or go to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance at http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home for more information about where to find help for depression and bipolar disorder, educational training, peer support, wellness options and more.
You can also go to the website for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml for more information on mental health.
If you have insurance, you can also call the Behavioral Health line through your insurance to find out where you can go to seek mental health treatment.
Treatment is very important for someone who is bipolar. You may need to see a psychiatrist or even a therapist to help you deal with your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. There is much more help and support for someone with any form of mental illness than there used to be. You just have to ask for help. Never be afraid to ask for help or seek treatment. It may be scary at first but you will quickly realize how helpful it is for you and your mental and emotional well being.
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.