Bipolar disorder is a complex mood disorder that comes in various forms and has a variety of symptoms. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are three types of bipolar disorder:
- Bipolar I
- Bipolar II
- Cyclothymic Disorder
What defines bipolar disorder is the juxtaposition of manic episodes or hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes and often appears to be severe mood swings to family members or friends of the patient. People with bipolar disorder may not even be aware that their behavior is changing.
These episodes and the symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary from person to person. The difference between mania and hypomania is one of severity—a hypomanic episode often only comes across as a person being overly happy and energetic, but it’s usually obvious to those who know the person that their behavior has changed. Whether one experiences mania or hypomania determines whether one has bipolar I or bipolar II.
A manic episode may last seven or more days, and it may be accompanied by three or more of the following symptoms:
- Feeling excited or excitable for a long period of time
- Little or no appetite
- Talking fast
- Racing thoughts
- Needing little sleep
- Feeling excessively strong, powerful, important, or intelligent
- Taking risks
In contrast, an episode of depression (bipolar depression) may be accompanied by three or more of the following symptoms:
- Sleeping too much
- Feeling fatigued
- Loss of interest in normally interesting activities
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling excessively guilty or ashamed
- Unable to concentrate
- Unable to complete simple tasks
- Increased appetite or weight gain
- Feeling sad or hopeless
These episodes usually last about two weeks or more, and their severity and number of symptoms that appear will change from person to person.
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder
Though there is no cure for any of the three types of bipolar disorder, there are a variety of treatments available. For most people with bipolar disorder, the disease, even if it does not develop until later in life, will likely be with them for the rest of their lives and long-term treatment is necessary.
However, many who suffer from bipolar disorder will struggle to stick with a treatment plan because the periods between episodes will feel “normal,” and they may even believe that the disease has gone away.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, most treatment plans for bipolar disorder will include a combination of medications and psychotherapy—therapy that usually takes place with the help of a master’s level clinician.
These medications can include mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and/or some types of antipsychotics. Like many medications, they must be taken regularly to be effective.
Of course, if you suspect that you have bipolar disorder—and no matter what type of bipolar disorder you think you have—treatment by a mental health professional is recommended. Creating a treatment plan, taking recommended medications, and watching for warning signs of a manic or depressive episode, are critical for success.
If you suspect that you are having a severe manic or depressive episode and feel you may harm yourself or others, call 911.
Learn More About Clinical Studies in Boston for Bipolar Disorder
Have you been diagnosed with bipolar disorder? You may qualify for a clinical study on bipolar disorder.