Bipolar disorder is a very common disorder in our society; but, what does it mean to be bipolar?
A common understanding amongst the lay public is that bipolar disorder is “mood swings,” and that a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder implies that a person does not possess the ability to control their anger or regulate their emotions.
While persons with severe Bipolar disorder may struggle with irritability or emotional instability, Bipolar Disorder has little to do with moment-to-moment “mood swings.”
Rather, Bipolar Disorder is characterized by a tendency to experience distinct episodes of mania or hypomania and sometimes episodes of depression.
Manic episodes typically last 4 days to months and are characterized by the presence of excessive amounts of energy, decreased need for sleep, unnaturally elevated mood (euphoria) or irritable mood, excessive engagement in projects, activities, etc. Many, but not all, of these symptoms need to be present for a person to be truly manic. Sometimes mania may become very severe and the person can start to hear voices, become paranoid, experience grandiose delusions, and/or begin engaging in dangerous or risky activities.
Milder manic episodes are called hypomania, and the person can just seem to be “wired” for multiple days on end. Although persons with hypomanic episodes may not cause a person to become psychotic, they can still be quite dangerous.
Having repeated, untreated manic or hypomanic episodes can be very harmful to the brain and sometimes even lead to cognitive impairment and/or dementia.
Depressive episodes are characterized by at least 2 consecutive weeks of persistently depressed mood and/or a diminished ability to enjoy previously pleasurable activities, coupled with a number of other symptoms such as low energy, fatigue, a change in appetite or weight, and problems with sleep (sleeping too much or insomnia).
A person may go months or years between depressive and manic episodes, and during that time function quite normally.
The disorder is hard to diagnose. A person in the midst of a manic or hypomanic episode oftentimes feels very good (usually too good or euphoric), oftentimes do not realize they are experiencing a manic episode, and do not seek treatment. Most people seek treatment only when they are in the midst of a depressive episode are sometimes misdiagnosed as only having depression when in fact they have Bipolar Disorder. Misdiagnosing Bipolar Disorder as plain old depression (‘Unipolar’ Depression) is a significant problem because the treatment is very different for Bipolar Disorder than for ‘Unipolar’ Depression. In fact, medication given for ‘Unipolar’ Depression can sometimes make Bipolar Disorder much worse.
If you are searching for more information on bipolar disorder, some reputable sources on the subject include:
The following link will take you to a self-assessment tool that you may find helpful in determining whether you are suffering from bipolar disorder:
Please note, that the above link is only a questionnaire and is NOT a diagnostic. If you truly want to know if you suffer from bipolar disorder, please contact a qualified mental health professional to schedule an evaluation.
At Kentucky Psychiatric and Mental Health Services, we serve as a safe source for Christians within our community who are struggling. It is our goal to provide the highest level of care in a way that honors your Christian beliefs. If you, or someone whom you love, are struggling with Bipolar Disorder we want to help you.
Call us at 502-339-2442 or email us at email@example.com to book an appointment with one of our physicians or therapists.
If you don’t get help from us, seek help from someone.
Life and the future can be much brighter with treatment.