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The Ups and Downs of Bipolar Disorder

Sometimes people joke about being bipolar, but bipolar disorder is no laughing matter.

Once called manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mental disorder characterized by clear and unusual changes in mood, concentration, activity level, energy and the ability to do or manage daily tasks.

Types of bipolar disorder

Typically diagnosed during adolescence through early adulthood, bipolar disorder involves clear changes in mood, activity level and energy.

Adolescents and adults with bipolar disorder experience “up” periods of elated or energized mood and behavior, called “manic episodes.” Hypomanic episodes are less severe manic periods. They also experience “down” periods of sad, hopeless moods and behavior called “depressive episodes.”

The three types of bipolar disorder are:

  • Bipolar I Disorder – Manic episodes that last seven days or more (or by severe manic episodes requiring hospital care). The depressive episodes may last at least two weeks.
  • Bipolar II Disorder – A pattern of hypomanic and depressive episodes, but not manic episodes.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder (or Cyclothymia) – Alternating periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms lasting for at least two years for adults.

Bipolar disorder signs and symptoms

Someone having a manic episode may:

  • Feel very “up,” “high” or elated
  • Be more irritable
  • Speak very quickly about a lot of different topics
  • Try to do a lot of things at once
  • Seem “jumpy” or “wired for sound”
  • Do risky, reckless things
  • Need much less sleep
  • Have less appetite

Someone having a depressive episode may:

  • Feel very “down,” sad or hopeless
  • Be more worried
  • Speak more slowly or have nothing to say
  • Feel unable to do simple things
  • Seem “slow” or inactive
  • Have little interest in doing anything
  • Sleep too much or wake up too early
  • Overeat and gain weight

Those with bipolar disorder experience some (but not all) of the above symptoms — and sometimes in a less severe form that allows them to function and manage their day-to-day lives. In some cases, they may not even realize that they have bipolar disorder, but often family, friends and coworkers will recognize the changes in mood and activity level that are the hallmarks of this life-long disorder.

With a free mental health screening — followed by professional diagnosis and an effective treatment plan comprised of psychotherapy and medication by a licensed provider — adolescents with bipolar disorder can learn to manage their symptoms and live better, more fulfilling and engaged lives.

To learn more about Willowbrooke Psychiatric Center now.

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