Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by a split between two extreme moods. These include a stage of “mania”, where the patient feels “high” and like they can take on the world; and a stage of “depression”, where their symptoms are the complete opposite and are more in line with conditions like major depressive disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a condition that affects a patient’s everyday life, a condition that can damage their sense of worth and can cripple their relationships, their career and even their family life. It is something that is never comfortable, rarely positive and always debilitating. Some patients have found ways of living with the disease and are not resentful of it. However, these patients tend to be older. They have lived with it for a long time and are accustomed to the changes in mood and the many symptoms. And even those patients have their moments when they despise the condition and the way that it makes them feel.
Bipolar Disorder Definition
Bipolar disorder is said to affect tens of millions of Americans. In fact, over 2.5% of the adult population is said to suffer from this disease. That’s significantly more than the average person believes, as this disease is considered to be quite rare, but is actually one of the more common mood disorders. It’s not quite as common as depressive disorders and anxiety disorders, but it’s up there as one of the most diagnosed mental health disorders in the United States.
The numbers of diagnoses of bipolar disorder is increasing and is much higher now than it was a few decades how. However, this has more to do with our understanding of the disorder than an increase in the number of people suffering from it. Not only do we know more about the signs, the symptoms and the causes, but we are better equipped to diagnose it and to treat it than we were a few decades ago.
What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
There are a number of signs and symptoms associated with bipolar disorder. These may not always be easy for the patient to recognize in themselves, because they may not want to believe that the problem exists in the first place. They may dismiss their symptoms as something harmless, as personalty quirks, and they may avoid getting treatment as a result.
This is where the patient needs support from their loved ones, the people who will recognize the things that the patient might be ignoring. So, if you are worried that your loved one is suffering from bipolar disorder then look out for the following symptoms:
- Constantly talking about death or suicide
- Showing signs of self-harm
- Feeling hopeless or helpless and looking constantly dejected
- Acting like they are a burden to everyone
- Acting recklessly and impulsively
- Switching between extreme moods
- Being depressed for many weeks at a time and being excitable for weeks after that
- Struggling with substance abuse and/or addiction
- Going through regular weight changes and sleeping disturbances
- Having many ideas but struggling to follow through with any of them
- Rapidly cycling through ideas, conversations and thoughts
- Losing friends and partners because of volatile relationships and behavior
If you have spotted these symptoms in someone you love, then you might feel the need to stage an intervention and pressure them into getting help. But this is rarely a good idea. If they are in denial about the issue it’s because they are worried what will happen when they admit it; they are worried what they will face and what they will put themselves through. By forcing them through this you are giving them additional concerns and making them more anxious.
The best thing to do is to sit them down and discuss it with then. Show them this article, show them these symptoms and ask them to be honest with themselves. Only when they do that can they begin to get the help they need.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
We’re still not quite sure what the exact cause of bipolar disorder is. However, there are some possibilities and a lot of research has been done into this subject. One of the first things that a bipolar disorder specialist will do when treating an individual is to try and work out what the cause of the illness was. If they can figure this out then they have taken the first step to helping the patient, and it is a major step.
For instance, if they determine that childhood abuse was the cause, then they simply need to address those problems. They will take the patient back to their childhood and look to address the problem directly, effectively helping them with their problems in the present by fixing issues that occurred in the past.
There are some causes of bipolar disorder that are much more difficult to diagnose and determine, which can make the illness more difficult to treat as well. Such is the case with genetic factors and family issues. These are thought to be a very common use of bipolar disorder. We don’t know for sure why, but we do know that bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a family history of the disorder.
Is Bipolar Disorder Hereditary?
This is certainly one of the many potential causes, but there are others. As discussed above, there are a number of factors at play. This make a diagnosis hard, and it also makes things harder for the patient.
Just know that if you have a family history of Bipolar Disorder then you have an increased risk of developing it yourself, but there is certainly no guarantee that you will do so.
Bipolar Disorder, Marijuana and other Substance Abuse
As mentioned at the outset of this article, sufferers of Bipolar Disorder often feel the need to self medicate. They may struggle to get the release they want from their own prescription medication. They may be looking for something that can numb the suffering or help them feel a little more balanced emotionally.
The reasons vary from individual to individual and they are not always clear. What we do know, however, is that close to 6 in 10 people with Bipolar Disorder use drugs like marijuana on a regular basis, while nearly 5 in 10 admit to having drug and/or alcohol problems.
Many rehab clinics and psychiatrist groups have experienced a high rate of co-occurring Bipolar and substance abuse problems. In 2016, overdose deaths were at a 10 year high, and many of these came as a result of severely ill addicts who had let their drug use get away from them.
Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder can be diagnosed following a short appointment with a professional. The same goes for drug and alcohol problems. However, it’s not as easy to diagnose one when the other is present. Drugs and alcohol can mask the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, while withdrawal can make them appear when they might otherwise not.
It requires a deep understanding of both of these issues, as well as a vast experience in the medical field, in order to correctly diagnose Bipolar Disorder in a previously undiagnosed patient with a history of drug addiction and substance abuse.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder Misdiagnoses?
Many patients that present with bipolar disorder to their doctor often end up with a misdiagnosis. There are many reasons for this, and not all of them are the fault of the medical professional dealing with the case. Sometimes, a patient will leave out their feelings of anxiety and depression when describing their symptoms to a doctor. They feel embarrassed, so they only focus on the physical symptoms.
As a result, the doctor does the same. They begin to consider blood disorders, food intolerances and even heart conditions, all of which can be linked to some of the symptoms that present with bipolar disorder. They run tests, they waste a lot of the patient’s time, and in the end they typically diagnose a problem that doesn’t exist in the patient simply because they don’t know what else to do.
This is why it is important to get a diagnosis from a trained mental health professional. Not only are they trained to recognize and treat bipolar disorder, but they also have a wealth of experience dealing with many other mental illnesses and can help to get to the bottom of the problem, whatever it may be.
Bipolar Disorder Counselors Near Me
When searching for help, many patients will choose the first option they see on Google. They will go for the one that is nearest, the one that is biggest or the one that appears highest on the search results. This leaves them exposed to counselors who don’t have the necessary skills, experience or qualifications needed, which in turn means they won’t get the best treatment for their condition.
It is essential to take time and care when choosing a bipolar disorder specialist. A mistake here could cause a huge, life-altering setback that you might not cover from. Don’t rush in, don’t feel that it needs to happen now. Make sure you choose the right person no matter what.