Do you or a family member or friend have Bipolar Disorder? And if so, what can you do about it?
Signs and symptoms of mania (or a manic episode) include:
· Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
· Excessively “high,” overly good, euphoric mood
· Extreme irritability
· Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
· Distractibility, can’t concentrate well
· Little sleep needed
· Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers
· Poor judgment
· Spending sprees
· A lasting period of behavior that is different from usual
· Increased sexual drive
· Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
· Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
· Denial that anything is wrong
A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with three or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for 1 week or longer. If the mood is irritable, four additional symptoms must be present.
Signs and symptoms of depression (or a depressive episode) include:
· Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood
· Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
· Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
· Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex
· Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being “slowed down”
· Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
· Restlessness or irritability
· Sleeping too much, or can’t sleep
· Change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain
· Chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical illness or injury
· Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
A depressive episode is diagnosed if five or more of these symptoms last most of the day, nearly every day, for a period of 2 weeks or longer.
What can be done?
According to NIMH Research anyone with bipolar disorder should be under the care of a psychiatrist skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease. Other mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and psychiatric nurses, can assist in providing the person and family with additional approaches to treatment.
Help can be found at:
· University—or medical school—affiliated programs
· Hospital departments of psychiatry
· Private psychiatric offices and clinics
· Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
· Offices of family physicians, internists, and pediatricians
· Public community mental health centers
People with bipolar disorder may need to get help.
· Often people with bipolar disorder do not realize how impaired they are, or they blame their problems on some cause other than mental illness.
· A person with bipolar disorder may need strong encouragement from family and friends to seek treatment. Family physicians can play an important role in providing referral to a mental health professional.
· Sometimes a family member or friend may need to take the person with bipolar disorder for proper mental health evaluation and treatment.
· A person who is in the midst of a severe episode may need to be hospitalized for his or her own protection and for much-needed treatment. There may be times when the person must be hospitalized against his or her wishes.
· Ongoing encouragement and support are needed after a person obtains treatment, because it may take a while to find the best treatment plan for each individual.
· In some cases, individuals with bipolar disorder may agree, when the disorder is under good control, to a preferred course of action in the event of a future manic or depressive relapse.
· Like other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder is also hard on spouses, family members, friends, and employers.
· Family members of someone with bipolar disorder often have to cope with the person’s serious behavioral problems, such as wild spending sprees during mania or extreme withdrawal from others during depression, and the lasting consequences of these behaviors.
· Many people with bipolar disorder benefit from joining support groups such as those sponsored by the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA), the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), and the National Mental Health Association (NMHA). Families and friends can also benefit from support groups offered by these organizations.
If you have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and are now on medication treatment, you will also need ongoing support from a licensed therapist. This can help to break old patterns of behavior and learn more appropriate ways of relating to others. Seeking help is often as important to your family and friends as it is to you. Please call on me or one of the other licensed therapists here.
Judith L. Allen, Ph.D.
Resources: National Institutes of Mental Health