The Myths and Realities of Bipolar Disorder and Its Treatments

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme shifts in mood, energy, and patterns of behavior. These shifts are unusual and disorganized, contributing to increased stigma and judgment toward those with this disorder. Research by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 4.4% of adults in the U.S. will experience bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. Therefore, it can be extremely beneficial to learn about bipolar disorder and dispel any myths surrounding the disorder. 

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Individuals with bipolar disorder experience extreme shifts in behaviors that interfere with their ability to function normally in daily life. Contrary to what one may believe, however, there are three distinct types of bipolar disorder. All three types involve shifts in mood and energy, ranging from periods of extreme highs to periods of extreme lows. 

Periods of extreme highs are known as manic episodes and are characterized by elated, irritable, and energized behavior. Meanwhile, periods of extreme lows are known as depressive episodes and are characterized by sad, indifferent, or hopeless behaviors and emotions. When manic episodes are less severe, they are defined as hypomanic episodes. 

The NIMH highlights the three types of bipolar disorder as follows.

Bipolar I Disorder

This type of bipolar disorder is defined by extreme manic symptoms. Individuals with bipolar I disorder experience manic episodes that last nearly every day for at least seven days. Further, manic symptoms may become so severe that an individual may require immediate hospitalization or medical attention. 

Depressive episodes often follow periods of mania, typically lasting about two weeks. It is also possible for individuals to experience mixed features of mania and depression together. When a person endures four or more episodes of mania or depression in a span of one year, it is known as “rapid cycling.”

Bipolar II Disorder

This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by hypomanic and depressive episodes. The symptoms that individuals experience with bipolar II are often less severe than symptoms experienced with bipolar I. 

Cyclothymic Disorder

This type of bipolar disorder involves recurring symptoms of hypomanic and depressive symptoms but are not as intense or last as long to qualify as episodic. This condition is commonly referred to as cyclothymia. 

Dispelling the Myths of Bipolar Disorder

In a publication titled “Myths and Facts of Bipolar Disorder,” published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), author Cassandra Miasnikov addresses several myths regarding bipolar disorder. The author first addresses the myth that bipolar disorder is rare, emphasizing the prevalence discussed earlier. 

Mania and Moodiness

Another myth the author addresses is that people with bipolar disorder are just moody. In this case, it is vital to understand that the mania and depression that individuals experience with bipolar disorder are vastly different from normal fluctuations in mood. To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, individuals must exhibit extreme symptoms that last for extended periods. Often, these mood shifts are debilitating and require medical care.

The Seriousness of Manic Episodes

Additionally, the author also reacts to the myth that mania is fun and exciting. Individuals that have not experienced symptoms of mania may not understand just how serious manic episodes can be. In addition to often requiring hospitalization, manic episodes often surface a variety of symptoms that are unpleasant and out-of-control.

Individuals in a manic state may often engage in high-risk behaviors, leading to reckless decisions and abnormal risk-taking behaviors. Further, these behaviors can have long-lasting consequences and impair an individual’s relationships, career life, and overall health. The aftermath of manic behaviors can persist for years and affect all areas of functioning. 

Living a Fulfilling Life With Bipolar Disorder

Another common myth about bipolar disorder is that individuals with the disorder are unable to live happy, fulfilled lives. This could not be further from the truth. Individuals with bipolar disorder can certainly live fulfilling lives with the help of a professional treatment program. Often, treatment for bipolar disorder requires the use of both pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions. 

Pharmacological Interventions

Most individuals with bipolar disorder can benefit from mood-stabilizing medications. Creating a suitable medication regime can be complicated, as depressive and manic episodes often surface without warning. Antidepressant medications may also be prescribed to treat severe episodes of depression but can be problematic if used during a manic episode. In this case, it is imperative to work closely with a mental health professional to create an individualized treatment plan that fits your unique needs. 

Psychotherapy Options

Many different types of psychotherapy approaches may be used in tandem with prescription medications to improve treatment outcomes. According to the NIMH, “Psychotherapy can offer support, education, skills, and strategies to people with bipolar disorder and their families.”

The first-line psychotherapy treatment is often cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy option focuses on the role that intrusive or problematic patterns of thought contribute to overall behavior. CBT can help individuals with bipolar disorder better regulate their emotions and identify thought patterns that may trigger manic or depressive episodes.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme shifts in mood and energy. There are three types of bipolar disorder, each influenced by the intensity and duration of manic and depressive episodes. If you have bipolar disorder, it is essential to understand that you can live a happy and fulfilling life. At Alter Behavioral Health, we offer residential treatment programs for individuals with bipolar disorder and other mental health disorders. We utilize both pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatment approaches to ensure that you can achieve and establish lasting healing from the unmanageable symptoms of bipolar disorder. To learn more about our treatment options and programs, give us a call today at (866) 691-4386.