Recognizing the Symptons, Getting a Diagnosis and Treatment, and Living With this Disorder
Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is usually noticed in older teens and young adults, although there are some cases of children being diagnosed with this disorder. It's characterized by alternating periods of high emotions (mania) and low (depression). There are frequently times of normal behavior in between the two extremes. These emotional periods can change several times in a day, or there can be several days between emotional changes. Here are some signs to look for in each phase of this disorder:
Feelings of euphoria, extreme optimism and elated self-esteem
Rapid speech, racing thoughts, agitation, increased physical activity
Recklessness, poor judgment, taking chances when not normally doing so
Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness
Sleep and appetite issues
Fatigue, loss of interest in daily activities
Chronic pain without a cause
Recurring thoughts of death and suicide
Diagnosis and Treatment
People with bipolar disorder often are unable to realize they have a problem, how it affects their lives or their relationships. It's often family and friends who recognize there is a problem. It's up to them to encourage the bipolar sufferer to seek medical help and treatment. Before an official diagnosis is made, a physician should oversee medical testing to rule out a physical or medical cause for the behavior of the patient. Once these are ruled out, they can do other screening tests to determine if bipolar disorder is indeed present. A medical doctor can make a diagnosis, but psychiatrists are specifically trained in mental disorders and are better qualified to diagnose and treat this condition.
Treatment of bipolar disorder usually consists of both therapy and medication. One of the main medications for bipolar disorder is lithium, which is a mood stabilizer. Other drugs in this category include carbamazepine, divalproex sodium, lamotrigine, and valproate sodium. Lithium is used to treat mania and to prevent the return of both manic and depressive tendencies. Valporate, divalproex sodium, lamotrigine, and carbamazepine may be used to treat mania or to prevent mood cycling. Valproate may be used to treat mania for people who cannot take lithium, or for whom lithium does not show positive results.
Medication alone does not seem to help bipolar patients. Medication and psychotherapy seem to help the most. Bipolar patients need to understand the nataure of their disease and how to recognize and deal with the various phases of it. There are several different forms of psychotherapy, including psychoeducation, group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family therapies. All are useful at one point or another in the bipolar patient's care and treatment. Psychoeducation teaches the patient about his disorder, how to recognize signs of the phases, and what triggers these phases. Group therapy is used as a support system. This type of therapy helps the bipolar patient know that he is not alone and allows him to compare notes with others who suffer the same malady. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches patients how to monitor their behavior and correct their distorted thinking.
Living With Bipolar Disorder
Proper medical and pyschotherapy treatments go a long way towards helping the bipolar sufferer live a relatively normal life. It's important to understand that there is no cure for this disorder, that once diagnosed, the patient will undoubtedly be living with it for the rest of his or her life. But there are some other things a bipolar patient can do to augment his treatment and live a more satisfying life. The most important things to do is to learn all you can about this disorder and to follow instructions from your doctor and psychiatrist. Take your medications, see your doctor regularly, eat healthy, get enough rest, exercise, and don't use alcohol or recreational drugs. Following good health habits is always recommended, no matter what medical condition is present. Avoiding stress is another goal to seek in managing your illness. And stay active socially; your associations can help you step outside yourself, may be a stress relief, and provide opportunities to be of service to them, all good things to do to help manage your disorder.