Bipolar Disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is characterized by an individual experiencing drastic swing in mood and behaviors. The highs and lows range from a high-energy manic state to major depression. A person suffering from Bipolar Disorder typically exhibits symptoms associated with depression during the depressed stage, but might feel relieved of those symptoms during the manic phase of the illness. More frequently individuals with bipolar disorder are depressed more often than they are manic. The manic phase can feel good with an extreme sense of excitement and high energy, but can lead to irresponsible behavior and the inability to sleep.
Individuals may experience normal moods in between episodes, may present more mild forms or have mixed episodes where they experience both mania and depression at the same time. Cycles may last months, or individuals may experience rapid cycling. Unfortunately left untreated or undiagnosed, the disorder can be destructive to living a normal daily life.
Different types of the disorder exist defined by the pattern among episodes of depression, mania and hypomania. This range is sometimes referred to as the bipolar spectrum. Bipolar I Disorder is the most severe, with most individuals experiencing mania and depression. Bipolar II Disorder is characterized by repeated major depression and hypomania, which is a mild form of mania. Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar disorder, where the mood cycles exist but are between mild depression and hypomania. This type should be monitored, even if mild, because there is a risk of it developing into a more serious type.
The misdiagnosis of individuals with bipolar disorder can happen as it can be hard to distinguish between it and major depression, ADHD, thyroid problems, and other medical conditions, which can have symptoms of mood swings. The misdiagnosis of major depression may occur because more often patients seek help during the depressive stage of the disorder. This can be dangerous because often the treatment such as antidepressants for clinical depression can make manic depression worse.
The disorder is lifelong and unpredictable, but if it’s not treated, the mood swings and changes in behavior can be destructive. The varying episodes can make it hard to lead a normal life, but treatment, medication, and support can help toward recovery. Effective treatment helps stop some symptoms and lessens the intensity and frequency of manic and depressive episodes. Early diagnosis and treatment is key to avoiding problems, and treatment is most affective with education, support, good choices, and commitment to a plan.
To learn more or get help from professionals who have experience with treating bipolar disorder, please contact Marsha Schechtman, LCSW at 770.753.4911 or Howard Drutman, Ph.D. at 678.867.7020 at the Atlanta Behavioral Consultants.