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Understanding Bipolar Disorders

As more and more celebrities come forward with bipolar disorders, this once taboo topic has finally come into the light. Bipolar disorders are actually four different brain disorders that cause extreme changes in mood and behavior, in some cases impacting an individual’s ability to handle everyday responsibilities. Up to 3% of the American population and more than 60 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with some type of bipolar disorder. Many more may not be aware of what their symptoms mean and/or have not sought treatment and diagnosis. In addition, many people with bipolar disorder are diagnosed simply with depression and treated only for that aspect of their disease.

Bipolar I Disorder.

The most intense form of bipolar disorder, bipolar I is characterized by extreme manic episodes that last seven days or more, with manic symptoms that are sometimes severe enough that the individual requires hospital care. Major depressive episodes usually occur as well, generally lasting at least two weeks. Episodes of mixed depression, simultaneously exhibiting both depression and manic symptoms, are also possible with this type of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder is characterized by a recurring pattern of major depressive and hypomanic episodes. Less severe than bipolar I disorder, an individual with bipolar II disorder usually does not experience truly debilitating manic episodes.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Also known as cyclothymia, cyclothymic disorder is characterized by frequent periods of hypomania as well as periods of depression over a period of at least two years. The symptoms of individuals with cyclothymia generally do not meet the extreme requirements for a full-blown manic or major depressive episode.

Unspecified Bipolar Disorder

Many people exhibit some of the symptoms of bipolar disorders without the full set of symptoms required to be diagnosed clearly among the three distinct types described above. These individuals may be diagnosed with unspecified bipolar disorder.

Mania, Hypomania, and Depression

People with bipolar disorders tend to experience periods of abnormally intense emotion, as well as changes in energy, activity level and sleep patterns, accompanied by unusual behaviors. These distinct periods are called mood episodes, and they are radically different from the typical spectrum of moods and behaviors most people experience.

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Intensely unhappy mood or despair
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Sense of guilt
  • Worry or emptiness
  • Loneliness
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Lethargy or decreased activity
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Poor concentration and forgetfulness
  • Decreased or increased appetite
  • Slower speech
  • Poor coordination
  • Absence of interest in normal activities
  • Lack of pleasure in usual hobbies or amusements
  • Suicidal thoughts

Symptoms of mania may include:

  • Intensely elevated mood
  • Feeling of euphoria
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Extreme irritability
  • High energy
  • Jumpiness
  • Increased activity
  • Less need for sleep or difficulty sleeping
  • Racing thoughts and speech
  • Heightened senses
  • Higher distractibility
  • Impulsiveness
  • Recklessness
  • Promiscuity
  • Symptoms of psychosis

Symptom of hypomania may include:

  • Elevated mood
  • Euphoria
  • High energy
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Increased goal-directed activity
  • Improved productivity
  • Racing thoughts and speech
  • Less need for sleep
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Heightened senses
  • Higher distractibility
  • Excessive interest in pleasurable activities

While mania and hypomania share many symptoms, those who experience a manic episode are more prone to self-destructive behavior, while those who are hypomanic are often at their most productive at work, at home, and in personal relationships during these phases. The danger of hypomania, however, is that it may cycle into either full-blown mania or depression. Some people also experience mixed episodes, which include elements from more than one group of symptoms. A trained psychiatrist is the best person to accurately diagnose and treat bipolar disorders.

If you need assistance with the daily tasks of caring for a loved one with bipolar disorder, reach out to Specialty Care Services for help with professional caregiving services and family caregiver support. Contact us today at 301-585-6300 to learn more about our senior care in Silver Spring and the surrounding areas or to schedule a free, in-home consultation.

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