Bipolar Disorder is a severe mental illness that is characterized by episodes of depression and mania and hypomania. These episodes vary in length depending on the type of Bipolar Disorder that a person suffers from. The extreme shifts in mood and energy levels can contribute to suicidal ideation or suicidal actions, whether those are passive or active. Bipolar Disorder is most frequently treated with a combination of therapy and medication. It is a serious illness, and it is not preventable. It can be genetic, and it can affect people’s jobs, relationships, and it can severely impact a person’s quality of life. If you receive medication and therapy for Bipolar Disorder, your life will improve, but first, you need to know the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. If you believe that you have these symptoms, please consult a medical professional immediately.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder Type 1 (Bipolar I Disorder) is differentiated from Bipolar Type 2 (Bipolar II Disorder) by establishing that a person has experienced at least one full-on manic episode during their life. Despite the criteria stating that only one manic episode must occur, a person with Bipolar Disorder Type 1 will often experience more than that. People with Bipolar Type 1 typically develop the condition during their late teen years or early adulthood, but some people see symptoms of the disease develop as early as childhood. When viewed in children, it is referred to as a pediatric Bipolar disorder. Children can’t necessarily put a name to their feelings when they have Bipolar disorder because they don’t fully comprehend what mania is, but as they grow up, they will begin to understand their experiences better. Approximately 2.5% of the United States population lives with Bipolar Disorder, which is about six million individuals. So, it is relatively common, and it is worth it to understand the following symptoms so that you can recognize them in yourself or the people around you:
Symptoms of Mania
Pressured speech or speaking loudly
Going from one idea to the next rapidly
Inability to slow down
Decreased need for sleep or insomnia
Grandiosity or inflated self-perception
Compulsive or excessive spending
During a manic episode, a person may spend excessive amounts of money, engage in promiscuous behavior that they would not frequently participate in, appear narcissistic to the onlooker, and so on. A manic episode can last for a couple of weeks or a couple of months. The symptoms of this illness vary regarding length and severity. Most if not all people with Bipolar Disorder have periods where they are asymptomatic, meaning that they aren’t experiencing symptoms. If left untreated, however, mania or mixed episodes can result in death by suicide, so it is essential that an individual with Bipolar Disorder receives treatment.
Symptoms of Depression
- Low energy
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Changes in eating
- Social isolation
- Slow speech
- Actively planning a suicide attempt*
*If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, call 911 immediately.
Mood stabilizers are a treatment option for those living with Bipolar Disorder. Mood stabilizers such as lithium are especially useful in treating mania, and lithium itself has been used for over sixty years to treat Bipolar Disorder. When taking lithium, a person’s blood levels must be monitored in addition to the monitoring of their kidneys and thyroid, which may be affected by the medication.
Depakote is another medication that can be used to treat Bipolar Disorder. It can be useful in treating mania and other shifts in mood. Depakote can begin treating symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in as early as five days from the day that a person starts taking the medication. Many people with Bipolar Disorder benefit from taking Depakote.
Other Mood Stabilizers
Tegretol and Lamictal are also common mood stabilizers used to treat Bipolar Disorder. They can prevent episodes of mania or hypomania and treat depression. Some people report that they have decreased anxiety as a result of these medications as well. Trileptal and Topamax may also be used to treat this condition.
When an episode is severe, antipsychotics are used when treating mania. Here are some common antipsychotics:
These are relatively new medications, which are pre-dated by typical antipsychotics such as Haldol. Antipsychotics come with some potential risks and side effects, such as tardive dyskinesia, uncontrollable facial movements, tremors, and tics.
Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and other benzodiazepines treat anxiety that occurs as a result of mania. They don’t address the other symptoms of mood swings that come with the illness, such as euphoria from mania or low energy from depression, but they can aid in helping a person with Bipolar Disorder manage their anxiety.
Antidepressants alone do not treat Bipolar Disorder. Antidepressants include but are not limited to Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, or Wellbutrin. If taken apart, there is a risk for antidepressants to cause mania in those with Bipolar Disorder. However, in conjunction with a mood stabilizers, they can help manage depressive symptoms. Wellbutrin is one of the most common antidepressants used in the treatment of Bipolar Disorder in conjunction with a mood stabilizer because it does not fall into the category of an SSRI and works mainly on dopamine levels. Some people find that it contributes to heightened anxiety levels and it is not recommended for continuation in those individuals. Other classes of drugs can also treat depression in those with Bipolar Disorder, so it’s important to talk to your psychiatrist and see what will work for you the best. Antidepressant medications considered SNRI’s are also used in the treatment of Bipolar Disorder, and they include Cymbalta, Effexor, Pristiq, and other drugs. These medications act on different neurotransmitters and can be useful in alleviating some of the depressive symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.
Bipolar Disorder Type 2
As stated previously, Bipolar II Disorder is different from Bipolar I Disorder. Bipolar II Disorder can be challenging to diagnose because it is characterized mainly by depressive symptoms. Many people with Bipolar Disorder Type 2 get misdiagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) when they first seek help. It can take years the correct diagnosis to be made. Sometimes, a person can go their entire life without a proper diagnosis. When a person with Bipolar II Disorder gets the proper diagnosis, it can be life-changing because they can get the right treatment and begin to get better. Bipolar Disorder Type 2 differs from MDD because a person with Bipolar II Disorder will experience hypomania, which is a less severe form of mania. Hypomania certainly differs from mania, but it can still be disruptive. If hypomania is left untreated, however, you can swing into full-blown Mania, which is why it is crucial to treat the illness accordingly. Hypomania includes the following symptoms:
- Increased energy
- Less need for sleep
- Increased productivity
- Pressured speech
- Inflated self-esteem
The difference between mania and hypomania is that, while you may experience increased energy levels, it is not as extreme as what you’d suffer from mania. Hypomania tends to last around a week, while mania can last anywhere from a few weeks to months at a time.