Most of us have experienced mood swings at some point or another. They usually come when we are tired, hungry, or hormonal. Bipolar disorder is a mental condition which makes it extremely difficult or even impossible for people to manage the extremes of their emotions.
Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness. According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), bipolar disorder “causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.” The NIMH approximates that about 4.4 percent of adults in the United States “will experience bipolar disorder at some point in their lives.”
Bipolar disorder consists of two types of changes in mood: manic episodes and depressive episodes.
Manic episodes are characterized by a person being high energy and experiencing strong positive emotions. A person experiencing a manic episode may suddenly be compelled to clean his entire house from top to bottom, or to work all through the day and night.
Depressive episodes are characterized by a person experiencing extreme lows in their emotions and energy levels. Someone experiencing a depressive episode is likely to sleep for many hours at a time or lose interest in things they normally enjoy.
Manic episodes and depressive episodes may occur at the same time. This might look like a person feeling very sad and depressed but simultaneously having high energy and motivation, which can be very confusing and uncomfortable to the person experiencing the episodes and also to the people around them. Both manic and depressive episodes can last anywhere from a few days to a few months.
While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, it is treatable. Treatments for bipolar disorder include combinations of psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) and medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and atypical antipsychotics.
Between manic and depressive episodes, people with bipolar disorder might not experience any symptoms at all. This lack of mood changes might tempt a person to lapse in their treatments or even stop taking their medicines altogether. Continuing treatment of bipolar disorder even when you feel fine is crucial to navigating those “high highs” and “low lows” that make bipolar so difficult to manage.
If you or a loved one would like support while dealing with the effects of bipolar disorder, feel free to reach out to us. We are here to help you take back control of your mental health.