Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that affects approximately 5.7 million Americans each year or 2.6% of the population. Most people begin to notice symptoms in late adolescence, though symptoms may be noticeable in early childhood or later adulthood. Bipolar disorder affects an equal number of men and women, and found in all races, ethnicities, and ages. A key difference however, is that men generally first notice mania symptoms, while women generally notice depressive symptoms first.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by two distinct phases: mania and depression.
Mania generally involves irritable moods, a decreased need for sleep, inflated self-importance, racing speech and thoughts, and exaggerated self-confidence. Mania can also mean reckless behaviors such as excessive spending or risky sexual behaviors. In some cases, people can experiences hallucinations or delusions.
Depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder usually involve changes in appetite and sleeping behaviors. This could mean eating too much or not enough and sleeping too much or not enough. Additional symptoms include unexplained sadness and crying, loss of energy, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, lack of pleasure in former interests, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
Bipolar disorder is a treatable condition. Treatments usually include medication prescribed by a psychiatrist to help stabilize moods. Additional treatment usually involves psychotherapy to learn how to handle the mood changes that occur.
For people with bipolar disorder it can be helpful to track your mood to monitor for changes. Doing this helps your psychiatrist or counselor know how to best help you. There is an app to help you do so at: http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=wellness_tracker
If you have been previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder, or suspect you might have this condition, Cy-Hope Counseling has counselors ready to help you navigate your mood changes.
Kristina Zufall, M.Ed., LPC-intern