What Are the Complexities of Bipolar Disorder?

When people hear the term “bipolar disorder,” confusion often follows. It is usually considered a complex mood disorder that is difficult to understand, cope with, and manage. However, bipolar disorder is common, affecting millions of Americans every year.

There are multiple forms of the disorder, all of which involve changes to an individual’s mood and emotions. One common symptom of bipolar disorder is depression. Additionally, depression is often a symptom of various forms of bipolar disorder.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder falls under the umbrella of mood disorders. Mood disorders are defined by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as a category of mental illnesses in which the underlying problem primarily affects a person’s persistent emotional state (their mood).

There are multiple forms of bipolar disorder. However, they all share one thing in common. Each type inflicts unwanted fluctuations in mood upon the individual who is struggling with the disorder. This can cause changes in energy, activity levels, and concentration and even interrupt daily life.

How Many Forms of Bipolar Disorder Are There?

There are three main types of bipolar disorder, which include bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder (also called cyclothymia). A person’s symptoms may also differ from the three primary forms of bipolar disorder. When this occurs, it is called “other specified/unspecified (bipolar NOS).” Understanding the types can significantly assist in clearing up confusion about the complexities of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar I

The NIMH defines bipolar I by noting manic episodes that last a minimum of seven days (the majority of the day, almost every day). It is also defined by manic symptoms that may become so severe that a person needs immediate hospital care.

Manic episodes are defined as a high-energy state of mind where excitement and euphoria are sustained over a period of time. This is often accompanied by depressive episodes that generally last a minimum of two weeks.

Individuals affected by bipolar I can also experience depressive symptoms and manic symptoms at the same time. When a person experiences four or more episodes of mania or depression within one year, the term is called “rapid cycling.”

Bipolar II

This form of bipolar disorder is defined by a recurring pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes. A hypomanic episode is considered to be a period where extreme changes in mood, behavior, activity, and energy level are observed in an individual.

These hypomanic episodes are not deemed as “fully manic” as they are less severe compared to the manic episodes that are found in bipolar I. Additionally, the depressive episodes involved in bipolar II are not as severe.

Both bipolar I and II can be challenging to cope with and manage. Seeking treatment when signs or symptoms are noticed is an important step to preventing the disorder from worsening.

Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)

Much like bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder involves recurrent hypomanic and depressive symptoms. It differs from bipolar II in that these symptoms are not severe enough, nor do they last long enough to be classified as hypomanic or depressive episodes.

This disorder is rare and still causes emotional ups and downs that are difficult to manage despite the lesser severity level. When a person experiences symptoms of bipolar disorder that do not match one of these three types detailed, this is then referred to as “other specified/unspecified (Bipolar NOS).”

What Are the Effects of Bipolar Disorder?

Managing the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder is achieved through treatment. However, when left untreated, bipolar disorder can worsen and create negative ripples throughout a person’s life. The individual’s work-life can be in jeopardy due to the disruptive nature of bipolar disorder. As a result, they may struggle with keeping a stable job and good attendance at work.

However, work relations are not the only thing to suffer from untreated bipolar disorder. Close friends and family/loved ones are also affected by the disorder. These relationships can often be lost from the worsening symptoms. Many individuals don’t recognize or realize they have these symptoms and do not pursue treatment. Proper diagnosis is the first step to managing bipolar disorder of any type.

An individual facing an untreated bipolar disorder is also at risk for more severe episodes of depression which can lead to self-sabotaging behaviors and even result in suicide. One study showed an estimated 20% of individuals with bipolar disorder chose to end their life by suicide. Untreated bipolar disorder can also lead to substance use disorders (SUDs) and excessive weight gain or weight loss.

When to Seek Treatment

If a person or their loved one is experiencing signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, reach out for treatment as soon as possible. Given the way that this disorder can worsen when ignored, treatment can help prevent this tendency.

Proper diagnosis and treatment can assist an individual in managing their bipolar disorder and obtaining a balance in their life. Within this balance, they can find happiness and the ability to enjoy their days peacefully. Bipolar disorder doesn’t have to be complicated. Treatment can simplify and brighten the future.

Facing bipolar disorder of any kind can be overwhelming and have serious negative impacts on your daily life when left untreated. We understand the challenges you face day after day, and we want you to know that we are here for you. Proper treatment for your bipolar disorder can bring back balance and peace in your life. There is nothing more important to all of us at Alter Behavioral Health than helping you achieve this balance and true happiness. Your joy is our joy. Call us today at (866) 691-4386 and let us help you get started down your new pathway to a brighter, happier future where you are in control of your joy.