Being moody is a normal part of life. You get up this morning feeling great, even perky. You put on a short skirt (that makes you look super thin) and your favorite heels for that important meeting at work. Mid way to work it starts to rain. Your car runs over a pot hole that was filled with water and you blow out a tire. It takes AAA an hour and a half to come. Meanwhile, you have checked in at work five times giving them car status reports. By the time AAA finishes, your car (and the AAA dude) has been plummeted with hail, you have missed the meeting and are now driving like a bat out of hell to work. Every car that has slowed down for the weather makes you angrier and angrier. When you finally arrive at work you realize that you left your umbrella in the front hall closet, not expecting it to be raining. Your skirt is wet, and you can feel it shrinking tightly around your hips (suddenly you aren't feeling quite as thin as 2 hours ago).Y Your designer shoes are soaked. As get out of the elevator you run into a coworker says, "Did you take your shower AFTER you dressed this morning?"
You suddenly realize you are holding back the tears because you are so angry you want to choke someone. And I don't mean that metaphorically.
What happened? You were so happy when you woke up, and now you are wondering," could the sentence for manslaughter be THAT bad??"
This type of mood shift happens to all of us. We can wake up in one mood, and then because of a series of life events our mood can shift depending on the situation that life has thrust upon us.
Bipolar Disorder, however, is a Mood Disorder that used to be called Manic Depression. A lot of us have heard about it when celebrities have been outed or have publicly displayed symptoms of very dramatic mood shifts and behavior. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Carrie Fisher, and Linda Hamilton outed themselves. Many very creative people have also been labeled Bipolar including Virginia Woolf , Emily Dickinson and Vincent Van Gogh.
Bipolar is a chemical imbalance that affects between 4 and 6 million American Adults (2.5% of the population). Bipolar affects both genders equally and tends to run in families. This mood disorder is characterized by dramatic shifts between two moods: Mania and Depression. There is no cure and if left untreated it can be devastating: symptoms become more extreme as time passes, individual will tend to "self-medicate" via alcohol or drugs, they may even attempt or succeed at suicide.
The goal of this article is not to help you pass a Psychology Exam, but to just help you understand a bit about Bipolar Disorder. If after reading this you are concerned you or some one you care about may be Bipolar, it is best to get a professional Psychologist or Psychiatrist involved as soon as possible.
There is no test to see if someone is Bipolar so diagnosis is arrived at by using the criteria listed in the DSM-IV-TR while interviewing the individual struggling with these symptoms. Here are the symptoms for the Depressive Mood swing:
- Excessive Fatigue
- Problems Concentrating
- Change in Sleeping almost every day (Insomnia or Hypersomnia)
- Change in eating or weight (5% increase or decrease)
- Feelings of Worthlessness
- Thoughts of Death or Suicide (with or without a plan, with or without an attempt)
- Increased Energy
- Inflated Self -Esteem or Grandiosity
- Decreased need for Sleep
- Flight of Ideas or Racing Thoughts
- Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities: Shopping Sprees, Sexual Indiscretions, Foolish Business Investments
- More Talkative than usual, Blurting, Pressure to keep talking
The key symptoms of a manic episode - high energy and mental activity - at first glance seems like something everyone would like to experience, especially during a very busy week. But, what goes up, must come down. And with Bipolar, coming down is dramatic and fast. Remember, when someone is bipolar there is no "in between" mood, You are UP or you are DOWN.
Optimal treatment is Medication and Psychotherapy.
Life long medication is inevitable, initially to address the presenting mood, Mania or Depression, and to stop the cycle from returning. The categories of medications that are used are Anti-Depressants (eg:Cymbalta, Lexapro, etc) , Neuroleptics or Anti Psychotics (Resperidal, Abilify and others) , and Mood Stabilizers (Lamictal, Lithium, Zyprexa to name a few).
Psychotherapy is a vital part of treatment. One focus of therapy should be on educating the patient to understanding the disorder. Learning which symptoms predict the return of symptoms so that additional "rescue" medication can be taken. Sometimes individuals stop the meds when they are asymptomatic thinking they are "cured." Therapy can offer the patients a safe place to talk about their mood swings and medication and how they are impacting their life. They are also helped with coping and social skills that are impacted, so they can navigate their private and public worlds more effectively. Some patients also struggle with symptoms of paranoia - a good therapist can help the patient determine when they are buying into their symptoms or when there is a reason for them to feel as if something is really wrong. Therapy can help focus on behaviors that exacerbate stress, help with relationships to reduce the strain that the illness puts upon loved ones, and helps identify and modify certain behaviors that accompany this disorder.
Support groups are also very helpful. Patients can meet people that really understand what they are dealing with. As with many illness, individuals with bipolar can tend to isolate. By joining a group of people all struggling with similar symptoms can help to learn coping skills, and how to give them a safe place to share their concerns.
Bipolar is not a death sentence. It is manageable with medication and therapy. The most important step is getting an accurate diagnosis (Bipolar can be confused with AD/HD, Borderline Personality Disorder, Delusional Disorder, Depression, and even Eating Disorders). For more information on Bipolar check:
Black Dog Institute
Bipolar Chat Rooms