Everybody goes through times of great joy, sadness or anger, and everyone has to deal with life’s difficulties. However, for people who suffer from bipolar disorder, the manifestation of these emotions can be magnified, even excessive. And often, these kinds of behavioural changes can scare the heck out of loved ones who have no idea what is happening or why.
Bipolar disorder is a treatable serious mental illness. It can affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, mood and overall functioning. Formerly known as manic-depression, bipolar disorder is marked by dramatic shifts in mood, energy and activity levels. People with this disorder typically swing between intense episodes of mania and depression.
Bipolar disorder affects 2.6% of American adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The first symptoms typically appear in the late teens or early adult years, though some people may develop the disorder in childhood or later in life. Researchers are still exploring the causes of the disease, but they believe that both genetic and environmental factors are responsible. Children who have a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder have an elevated risk of developing the disease. Still, most people with a family history of bipolar disorder will not develop the disease.
Signs and symptoms
Common signs of a manic state:
- Feeling extremely happy
- Talking faster than is normal
- Feeling agitated
- Decreased sleep
- Racing thoughts
- Behaving impulsively
- Engaging in high-risk behaviours, such as reckless driving, gambling or excessive spending
Signs of a depressive state:
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Low self-esteem
- Abandoning favourite activities
- Having difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Experiencing unusual sleep habits such as sleeping too much or too little
- Thinking about death or suicide
How counselling can help
With treatment and through their own efforts, people with bipolar disorder can live rich, rewarding lives. Treatment for bipolar disorder usually includes a variety of strategies to manage the disease over the long term. Medications are typically an important part of treatment. Those medications may include mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications or antidepressants. Such medications usually need to be taken daily and regularly to be effective.
Therapy is often an important part of treatment. In fact, in a recent report prepared for the Canadian Psychological Association, researchers reviewed numerous studies of bipolar disorder treatment and found that when psychotherapy is used in conjunction with medication, it can significantly reduce rates of relapsing into manic and depressive states and also improve overall functioning and well-being (Canadian Psychology, 2013). Counsellors can help people with bipolar disorder recognize and manage symptoms of the disease, change negative thought patterns and behaviours, manage daily routines and improve relationships with family and friends. Also, psychologist-led interventions such as family-focused treatments can also help the relatives of people with bipolar disorder learn strategies for helping their loved one.
Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder may come as a shock. But the disease is treatable, and a psychologist can help you manage the disease to live a full and fulfilling life.
- Bipolar disorder. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved October 1, 2018 from: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Bipolar-Disorder.
- Bipolar disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved October 1, 2018 from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml.
- Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. Retrieved October 1, 2018 from: http://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.dsm06.
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