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Learn the Red Flag Signs of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder (BD) is one of the more complex mood disorders, and affects over 6 million U.S. adults. Bipolar, which was once termed manic-depression, is a mental health disorder that features extreme mood swings. Many times the shifts in mood are not expected, so this illness can be hard to manage.
In many cases there are warning signs that someone has bipolar. Being able to assess these symptoms in a timely manner is crucial, as treatment can be started. There is a wide array of treatment methods that can help to control the severity of the mood swings. The sooner the illness is treated, the better the long-term outcome.
Facts About Bipolar Disorder
BD is a mental health condition that shows up during the teen or early adult years. It is within a group of mood, or affective, disorders. There is still much that is not known about BD. While the cause is still being explored, some factors that could be involved include:
- Genes or family members with mental illness.
- Brain chemistry or brain function issues.
- Childhood trauma, such as abuse or neglect, or loss of a parent.
- Substance abuse, such as meth, cocaine, or LSD.
There are four types of BD. While each type involves the mood shifts, they vary in how severe the mood state is or which mood state is dominant. The four types of BD are:
- Bipolar I
- Bipolar II
Warning Signs of Bipolar
It can be hard to tell if a person’s symptoms are signs of bipolar. Sometimes a person will only have a manic episode rarely, with a span of calm between. Others may be engaged in substance abuse, which can mask the signs of bipolar. Still others may have depression, but it can cloud the other signs of the illness. So, it isn’t as simple as seeing a loved one bounce back and forth between mood states.
All this vagueness can lead to a delay of getting a diagnosis. Doctors may be looking at the wrong set of symptoms and miss the signs of bipolar for years.
That is why it is so crucial to know the warning signs of bipolar:
- Intense manic mood state. They may be highly talkative or talk quickly, may be very friendly and outgoing, or be jumpy and annoyed. You will notice these signs because they aren’t the norm for the person.
- Impulsive actions. This person may begin to engage in things that are high-risk. Impulsive shopping, risky sex, driving under the influence, and other types of actions they might not have been involved with before.
- Sleeping less. They seem to need little sleep, even if they want to sleep. Even so, they don’t seem to show the effects of too little sleep during the day while in a manic phase.
- Higher energy level. The person will be hyper-active. They will be bouncing off the walls as they attempt to take on many projects at once. Their mind can’t slow down, so they will often bite off more than they can chew.
- Can’t think clearly. Confused thinking and a muddled mind are common in people with bipolar. The person struggles to focus and concentrate on what someone is saying.
- Fatigued. When the manic phase ends they begin to show signs of fatigue. Extreme fatigue is common during the depressive phase. Their whole system slows down, so fatigue is a common feature.
- Hopeless mood state. This person may seem to be very sad much of the time. They may appear to feel hopeless about life. Pleasure escapes them.
- Suicidal thoughts. People with BD tend to be at a higher risk for taking their own lives. During a depressive phase when they believe all their options are used up and they see no other way out. This is why it is so important to get the person assessed.
Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use
As with other mental health disorders, those with BD often turn to the comfort of a substance to help reduce the symptoms. A co-occurring substance use disorder will make each of the disorders’ symptoms worse. It also makes treatment more difficult. A dual diagnosis treatment program is the best setting for someone with both BD and a substance use problem.
Alcohol is the most common substance accessed by people who suffer from BD. There is a high prevalence of these two coexisting disorders, as alcohol is cheap and can be accessed for its desired calming effects. The risk is, of course, developing an alcohol use disorder over time.
How to Manage Bipolar Disorder
Trying to function with BD is quite hard, as the mood changes are so erratic. These folks struggle to keep a job, and their relationships are strained, too. People avoid them because they are so unstable.
This is where treatment can really improve the quality of life. Therapies like CBT, interpersonal, and social rhythm can help them make better decisions. Meds, like sertraline, may also help control the mood swings. Both of these treatments help to stabilize the person so they can lead a normal life.
There are many lifestyle and holistic treatment measures that can also improve daily life. These may include:
- Keeping a daily routine. This can help set your internal clock and allow for a more stable mindset through the day.
- Yoga. Yoga can relieve stress, which in turn helps you maintain a level mood state.
- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. If the bipolar was sparked by a trauma, EMDR therapy can help you work through the trauma.
- Light therapy. If you need help in setting your sleep schedule you can try light therapy. This is a special light box that is used a certain number of hours a day.
- Mindfulness. Use mindfulness to help train the mind to turn away from thoughts that might trigger stress and a mood shift. It is practiced by staying focused on the present moment and on your breathing.
The Treatment Specialist Online Resource for Mental Health Topics
The Treatment Specialist is an online resource for informative articles on mental health conditions and treatment options for adults, teens, and families. For answers to your questions about BD call the team at (866) 644-7911.