Hello everyone! I’m so excited to publish this one. When I found out I had bipolar disorder, I wasn’t as interested in learning more about it. When I was in the hospital, I finally developed the want to research it. When I was discharged from the hospital, I ended up buying so many books about bipolar disorder, people with bipolar disorder, and trying to make mood charts for myself. I think it’s safe to say I know a good amount, but I’m no doctor. Please remember: if you have any questions regarding mental health, please contact a medical professional (disclosure at the bottom also). I did research for this post because I don’t know everything! There is SO much information about bipolar disorder; Where it comes from, the conditions or features that go hand-in-hand with it, the different medications and therapies, and so much more. I am only going to scratch the surface for this post and talk about the more basic information.
I’m excited to get to talk about this with you! It is very important to me.
I’m trying to use my own photos, and I chose this moon picture because I feel like it defines bipolar disorder very well. It shows the two ugly heads that are associated with bipolar disorder; the mania (light side) and depression (dark side).
I want to start by talking about what exactly bipolar disorder is.
Bipolar disorder (it’s older name is manic-depressive disorder) is a chronic mental illness that experiences mood fluctuations that occur irregularly. We all have our normal moodiness but, these are amplified and extreme mood changes. These mood changes can be so bad it impairs someone’s ability to live their daily lives. When going through these episodes, you feel, think, speak, and behave in ways that are very unlike yourself. These last for week to months and can ruin a person’s life.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder vary between which episode you are in. I’m going to name off some different symptoms of mania, hypomania, and depression but will be going more in depth in separate posts. I will be using a list from a book from the National Institute of Mental Health to help me narrow down a few.
Symptoms of mania:
- Racing thoughts
- Feeling very ‘up’, high, elated or extremely irritable
- Feeling like you are unusually important, talented, or powerful
- Feeling jumpy or wired, more active than usual
- Decreased need for sleep
- Thinking you can do a lot of things at once without getting tired
- Excessive appetite for food, drinking, sex, or other pleasurable activities
- Hypersexuality (I will go more into this in a separate post)
- Talking fast about a lot of different things (“flight of ideas”)
Symptoms of depression:
- Lack interest in almost all activities
- Unable to do even simple things
- Feeling very down or sad, or anxious
- Feeling slowed down or restless
- Feeling hopeless or worthless, or thinking about death/suicide
- Trouble falling asleep, waking up too early, or sleeping too much
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Talking very slowly, feeling like you have nothing to say, or forgetting a lot
Symptoms of hypomania:
This is milder symptoms but they must present a distinct change from a person’s behavior. A person may feel good and productive and not think anything is wrong. Other people though can see the different behavior of the person. A severe depressive episode usually follows this.
- May be shorter in duration
- Doesn’t cause severe functional impairment
- Doesn’t require hospitalization
- Does not have psychosis
- Does not usually cause problems in life, not risky
- Makes you more engaging
Bipolar Disorder often has at least one condition that co-occurs with it. These can be:
Anxiety disorders (Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), psychosis (we will talk more about that down below), eating disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and substance abuse.
There is also something called mixed episodes, which is when you are feeling both manic & depressive symptoms at the same time. The moods of both are rapidly changing and they can last from a week to longer and during an episode, these symptoms last all day. These intense mood episodes have intense feelings and include changes in behavior, energy levels, or activity levels that are noticed by other people. Mixed episodes can be more difficult to identify because of the many different symptoms.
Rapid cycling is a feature that often accompanies bipolar disorder. This is considered as four or more mood episodes in one year. According to Bipolar for Dummies 3rd Edition, it is thought to be more severe and often doesn’t respond as well to medications.
Psychosis is a condition that can go hand-in-hand with very severe manic or depressive episodes. It is not a part of bipolar disorder but, it can hang out with a manic/depressive episode. Psychosis refers to a loss of touch with reality. Symptoms of psychosis usually reflect with which ever pole you are on. Say you were in a depressive episode, the psychotic thoughts and feelings that come with it are darker. If you are on the manic pole, the symptoms are usually about “super strengths, abilities, and insights”. The symptoms that go with psychosis are hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are when you hear, see, or sense things that are not actually there. Delusions are “false, strongly held beliefs that cannot be explained by the person’s cultural or religious beliefs and that are not influenced by logical reasoning.” Some other symptoms of psychosis are:
- Feel as though you have special powers
- Think that the television or radio is sending you a special message
- Believe you can accomplish goals that are well beyond your abilities
- Believe that people can read your mind or put thoughts in your head
- Think people are following or trying to harm you when they’re not
Let’s go ahead and talk about the different types of bipolar disorder. In some books that I have read, they only recognize three or four. One book I counted 7 different types of bipolar disorder. I am only going to list the 3 well known ones because listing others would just make things more confusing.
To be considered bipolar I, you have to have had at least one full-blown MANIC episode without the contribution of drugs and alcohol . If you have had a hypomanic episode, you would be considered bipolar II. Manic episodes must last for at least 7 days. A manic episode could be so severe that you would need to be admitted to a hospital. Depressive episodes usually last a couple weeks but you don’t need one to earn the label of bipolar I. People with this this form of bipolar diagnosis, people swing high up, this can be considered dangerous, and then it is followed by a crashing low. It is usually a depressive episode but it is not uncommon for bipolar I patients to have major depressive episodes follow their manic episode.
This one is characterized by having at least one major depressive episodes with at least one hypomanic episode. There are no manic episodes with bipolar II. With this form of bipolar, people swing up, just enough to feel ‘high’, but have horrible very low downs. You do not have any psychotic features with bipolar II and do not require hospitalization. Unfortunately, a small about of bipolar patients have a manic episode and are diagnosed as bipolar I.
This involves episodes of hypomanic and depressive SYMPTOMS but they are not intense enough or last long enough to be considered hypomania or depressive episodes. is when someone experiences long-term issues with mood fluctuation that involve periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms. It is considered a “milder form of bipolar disorder.” This diagnosis is only given when someone experiences these symptoms for at least two years WITHOUT the emergence of a manic or major depressive episode. Most people unfortunately end up experiencing a full-blown manic or depressive episode and then are re-diagnosed to either bipolar I or II.
The cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. Researchers have determined that there isn’t one single cause, but maybe a few of them. Genes, environmental situations, and brain structure and function are examples of these.
Treatment involves medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of different treatments such as:
- Electroconvulsive therapy: a brain stimulation procedure that can help people get relief from the symptoms of bipolar disorder. This is usually only considered if no other treatments are working for the patient.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): a form of psychotherapy. I actually took this from Google because I had no idea how to explain it – It’s a “focused approach to treating traumatic and other symptoms by reconnecting the client in a safe and measured way to the images, self-thoughts, emotions, and body sensations associated with the trauma, and allowing the natural healing powers of the brain to move toward adaptive resolution.”
- Normal life things such as exercise, good sleeping patterns, and eating right. It helps your body, brain, and heart.
- Using a chart to track your moods. I found this very beneficial because it told me I’m usually “high” in the summer. So I know what to watch out for.
You cannot be tested for this disorder. Instead, qualified doctors examine your mental and physical health. They go through family history, your symptoms if you are experiences high and low mood changes, and medical history. These doctors use a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to help with diagnosing patients. Occasionally, bipolar symptoms are seen in children, but most of the time bipolar disorder develops in late adolescence and early adulthood.
There are the basics! Thank you guys for taking the time to read through this! I love researching and I love talking about mental illness. I find it very helpful to know about. If I missed anything, please let me know. I want to make sure I have the most accurate information for you. I was able to explain some of these because I have unfortunately been through it, but I have noticed that the research and writing this out for you all is a great coping skill for me. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
****Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional. If you have mental health related questions, I highly recommend you seek a healthcare professional.*****
2 thoughts on “Bipolar Breakdown: Overview”
Thanks for writing this. More people need to be educated on what exactly bipolar disorder is. This was very informative and well written. Well done. 🙏
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Thank you so much for the kind words! I love bringing awareness to mental health!