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This section of the website will provide a broad overview of Bipolar disorder. Since the Bipolar disorder is diagnostically broken down into four discrete categories, the following will focus on a single sub-category, Bipolar I, outlining the basic information that is pertinent to this specific classification. Of necessity, discussion will include a general summary of Bipolar disorder, followed by a brief overview of the diagnostic criteria for Bipolar type I, its symptoms, and finally treatment methods.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder formally referred to as manic-depressive disorder, is a clinical diagnosis that describes a class of mood disorders distinguished by the presence of recurring episodes of atypically heightened energy levels. In addition to heightened energy levels, individuals also experience elevated levels of thinking and mood, frequently accompanied by episodes of intense depression. The condition affects both men and women and usually manifests between the ages of 14 and 22.
The periods in which one experiences heightened moods are referred to as bouts of mania, also known as hypomania. It is not uncommon between phases of depression and mania for individuals to experience relatively stable periods, during which their moods occur on a more regular spectrum. However, it is also common for individuals to experience rapid changes in their moods without stability, an occurrence that is referred to as cycling. Frequently, during extreme manic phases, individuals also experience some form of psychosis, which manifests as delusions or hallucinations. This range of experiences is referred to as the manic spectrum.
What is Bipolar Disorder I?
Bipolar disorder type I is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) by the presence of one or more bouts of mania, followed by periods of depression. Bipolar disorder type markers that demonstrate interludes of stability indicates me, generally distinguished by an apparent remission of symptoms. During these remissions stability returns and the individual is usually able to resume normal functioning.
Symptoms of Bipolar I
Symptoms of Bipolar I vary, and no two people experience the same symptoms in the same way. Differences in brain chemistry, family history, and medical history are all contributing factors. Symptoms also differ depending on what part of the Bipolar spectrum a person finds. Symptoms of mania are very different from symptoms of depression, and their expression will vary from person to person. However, some features of Bipolar disorder occur universally.
Symptoms of Bipolar I Mania Includes:
- Inability to regulate temper.
- Impaired judgment.
- High risk sexual behavior, including promiscuity and courting many partners.
- Inability to remain focused.
- An abnormal increase in energy, distinguished by heightened activity.
- Racing thoughts.
- Difficulty reasoning in a linear fashion.
- Inflated sense of importance or well being.
- Abnormally high self-esteem, accompanied by a sense of euphoria.
- Extreme agitation.
Symptoms of Bipolar I Depression Includes:
- Feelings of despair or hopelessness.
- Inability to recall or focus.
- Difficulty making decisions.
- Feelings of anhedonia or an inability to experience pleasure.
- Suicidal idealization.
- Abnormal decrease in apatite accompanied by weight loss.
- Significant weight gain or inability to burb appetite.
- A marked loss of esteem.
- A developing pattern of isolation.
Treatment for Bipolar I
Support and treatment for Bipolar I include a variety of interventions that include education and individual therapy, as well as family therapy, which is designed to help loved ones or significant others to support better the individual who is suffering. Typically, therapeutic techniques focus on building life skills that include:
- Educating clients to recognize signs they are relapsing into a manic episode.
- Coping with side-effects of certain medications.
- Adopting healthy lifestyles that focus on establishing normal eating and sleeping patterns.
- Helping individuals to stay clean and maintain sobriety.
- Dealing constructively with symptoms that occur while taking medications
- Managing medication regiments, which include taking meds consistently.
- Educating people to be mindful of returning symptoms.
- Educating family and loved ones about where to receive support for themselves.
Prescription Drug Treatment for Bipolar I
There are also some drugs that are employed to help control the cycling of moods. This class of medications is referred to as mood stabilizers and is one of the first lines of defense in the treatment of Bipolar disorder. Mood stabilizers typically used include:
Other drugs used to treat Bipolar disorder include:
Antipsychotic drugs and anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) for mood problems.
Invasive Treatments for Bipolar Disorder I
In addition to medications, scenarios can arise during which more invasive therapies are required. These might include:
- Electroconvulsive therapy, also known as ECT, may be employed in the event a person does not respond to medications during a depressive episode.
- Trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, otherwise known as TMS, which uses high-frequency magnetic pulses to target affected areas of the brain and helps to alleviate depression.
In addition to the following therapies, individuals in the midst of either a severe manic phase or a deep depression might require hospitalization until their mood is normalized. As suicidal ideation frequently follows bouts of mania, this confinement is may be necessary to ensure that an individual does not harm themselves before they are stabilized.
Although treatment goals will vary according to both the client’s needs and also the therapeutic style of the attending therapist, there exist certain treatment features that are consistent. These take the shape of treatment goals and typically include:
- Making the episodes less frequent and severe.
- Helping an individual to avoid slipping from one phase to another.
- Preventing self-harm and suicide.
- Avoiding the need for a hospital stay.
- Helping the patient function as well as possible between episodes.
During the phase of therapy in which treatment goals are being set, the therapist works with the client to first establish what, if any, events occurred that might have had a hand in triggering the episode. Both client and therapist will also attempt to discern if there was a medical or an emotional problem at play that eluded discovery and thus compromised treatment. Unfortunately, this is not always possible because not all people respond favorably to medications; and cases exist where individuals simply do not seem to benefit from the various therapies that are available. Cases such as this are rare, but they do exist. In such a case a person’s ability to function may be so impaired they require constant supervision and cannot live outside of a residential setting or therapeutic community.
The topic of Bipolar disorder is large, and not easily summed up in one article. Education and awareness are the first steps to acquiring help. Take the time necessary to keep yourself informed about latest practices and current treatment options. Hopefully, this article will assist giving you a foundation a of knowledge that will make selecting the correct course of treatment easier to determine.
Also published on Medium.