Is bipolar disorder a life sentence? Why does it occur? How can I help a loved one or myself? Bipolar disorder is a specific mental health condition with a variety of symptoms. Here are five things you need to know about it:
1. What causes bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is most likely caused by a combination of several factors including genetics (because it runs in families) and abnormal brain structure/function. Scientists are discovering more about bipolar disorder and this research may assist in predicting if it occur in someone or even how to prevent it from happening.
2. What is a major sign of bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health diagnosis with a very specific symptom set that mainly consists of distinct periods of mania (or a lesser form called hypomania) and depression. These periods of mania are notable for significant changes in behavior, not just mood. Bipolar mood changes are called “mood episodes.” During a mood episode symptoms will last for most of the day over a series of days. Bipolar disorder is much more than overreacting emotionally to something, and that it occurs in less than 1% of the population.
A manic episode is a mood episode that occurs for a period of time where a person’s emotions and behaviors are extreme. For example: Feeling very “up” or even “high,” talking really fast about a lot of different things, being very irritable or agitated, staying awake for several days without caffeine or stimulants, engaging in lots of activities simultaneously, being dangerously impulsive, engaging in and unprotected sex, spending large amounts of money, driving dangerously fast, or having grandiose thoughts/feeling invincible.
4. How can I help someone I care for with bipolar disorder?
While your primary care physician can be helpful, a referral or call to a provider (a psychologist or psychiatrist) with experience diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder is vital to get the right kind of evaluation or diagnosis.
Be patient and understanding during mood swings, include your friend or relative in activities or aspects of your life, remind them that treatment and recovery is possible. Develop an action plan with your friend on what to do if certain warning signs of a manic episode are occurring. This can help in increasing the quality of life of someone even if symptoms start to occur.
5. How can I help myself if I have bipolar disorder?
The best thing you can do is to start identifying symptoms and warning signs of past or recent manic episodes. Using these warning signs to initiate helpful and preventative behaviors is key. Additionally, getting treatment and sticking with it is vital. Treatment takes time and may involve several providers, but stick with it. Starting a routine of sleeping and eating can be extremely helpful in preventing manic episodes and reducing their time and impact on your functioning. Other behavioral routines can also be helpful in eliminating behaviors that might start fluctuations in your mood and maintain overall healthy levels of sadness and happiness.
Its also very important to remember that treatment is helpful, recovery is possible and you are so much more than just your symptoms.
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