What Is Bipolar Disorder?

As its name implies, bipolar disorder describes a condition characterized by extremes in mood. The condition has historically been called manic depression. Someone suffering from bipolar disorder typically experiences significant shifts in mood that affect their ability to function in their day-to-day life. For instance, those in the manic phase may be overly excitable, have serious struggles with concentration and focus and experience loss of appetite, irritability and a decreased need for sleep. The person may also indulge in risky behavior and use poor judgment.

On the other end of the scale, those in the depressive phase of the disorder usually feel extremely sad, hopeless and worried. They may sleep too much or have trouble sleeping at all, speak slowly, experience difficulty making decisions and concentrating, feel worthless and fixate on suicide and/or death.

Both extremes seriously impact normal functionality, and those with bipolar disorder often struggle to maintain healthy relationships with family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. The three separate types of bipolar disorder in order of severity are bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder and cyclothymic disorder. Those whose symptoms don’t fall within the criteria for these three conditions but nonetheless experience significant mood fluctuations may be diagnosed as having unspecified bipolar disorder.

It’s estimated that approximately 5.7 million adults in the U.S. are currently affected by some form of bipolar disorder.

How Bipolar Disorder Is Treated

Because the disorder affects everyone differently, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. However, those with bipolar disorder can usually live healthy, productive and active lives if they receive the right medical care. Bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed during the teen or young adult stage of life, although older adults can live with the condition for many years before seeking treatment. The median age for the onset of bipolar disorder is 25 years old.

Effective treatment plans generally utilize a customized combination of the following approaches.

Medical Integration

The first step in living with bipolar disorder is to receive a complete physical examination to rule out any kind of physiologically based issue that may be causing the symptoms. Examples of diseases that may cause symptoms that resemble those of bipolar disorder include lupus, thyroid disease, HIV and certain types of infections. Other contributing factors may be substance abuse, as well as other types of psychiatric problems that include borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

After physical and other psychiatric causes are ruled out, the primary physician typically refers the patient to a psychiatrist for a psychiatric assessment. The patient must show a pattern of unusual fluctuations in mood that include both manic and depressive episodes and meet the criteria for bipolar as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Psychotherapy

Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy involves the exploration of feelings, thoughts and patterns of behavior that cause problems with relationships, family, work and daily functioning. Psychotherapy helps patients identify issues and learn better coping mechanisms, cultivate a positive self-image and stay on their prescribed medication.

Support Groups

Support groups provide those who struggle with bipolar disorder the opportunity to engage with others who are facing similar challenges. Many feel less isolated and alone as a result of participating in support groups. They also have access to different perspectives that may help them refine their coping strategies as well as gain emotional support from others who truly understand what they’re going through.

Loved ones of those with bipolar disorder may also benefit from joining support groups. Regularly talking with people in their situation helps them learn coping mechanisms and gain understanding of the condition. These groups also provide a safe place to vent about the challenges that are often involved in living with someone with bipolar disorder.

Medication

Mood stabilizers are considered the main cornerstone of treating bipolar disorder with prescription medication. These drugs are typically prescribed shortly after the initial diagnosis to stabilize the patient as quickly as possible. Along with mood stabilizers, antianxiety drugs and antidepressants are sometimes prescribed. Types of medication and dosages often involve a period of trial and error to find the right combination.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Maintaining regular sleep schedules and establishing consistency in everyday routines help those with bipolar disorder manage their symptoms and over time may decrease the need for prescription medication. Because stress may trigger episodes of mania or depression, relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises and journaling are also recommended. Other healthy habits include eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet and getting physical exercise on a regular basis.

Some patients with bipolar disorder find that having an emotional support or psychiatric service animal helps them manage their symptoms. Emotional support animals provide companionship and emotional support, while psychiatric service animals are trained to perform tasks such as reminding you when it’s time to take your medication, go to bed and get up at specified times to maintain a healthy sleep schedule and bringing you the phone to call support people in the event of emotional distress.

Can Bipolar Disorder Be Cured?

Medical science has not found a cure for bipolar disorder. It’s a long-term condition that requires management for the duration of the patient’s life. However, with the right combination of prescription medication, healthy lifestyle choices and therapy, many of those who affected by bipolar disorder live fulfilling lives.

Living With Bipolar Disorder

Long-term management strategies include developing and maintaining a good work/life balance, sticking to a treatment plan, developing healthy habits and cultivating positive relations with family and friends. One of the most important factors in the long-term management of this condition is consistency, so it’s essential for patients to continue with their treatment program even if they feel they no longer need it. As time goes by, the patient typically learns to identify triggers of incoming mood swings and utilize proven strategies for managing them.

Contact Restore for More Information

At Restore, we’re familiar with the challenges involved in establishing and maintaining a normal daily routine while experiencing bipolar disorder. We also know that with the right diagnosis and treatment program, those with this condition can still live good lives. Please feel free to contact us through our convenient online form or by calling (877) 594-3566 if you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from bipolar disorder or any other mental health condition that’s impacting the ability to live a happy and productive life. Someone is standing by 24 hours a day waiting to talk with you about beginning your journey to a better life.