What We Treat
What is Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder might be more stigmatized than any other mental health disorder. The term is also used incorrectly by many and by the media, leading people to think that someone who simply changes mood quickly is “bipolar.” These misconceptions can make life for those with the disorder difficult and even prevent some from getting the help they need.
Types of Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar I and Bipolar II
Bipolar disorder comes in two forms: Bipolar I and Bipolar II.
In Bipolar I, patients experience mania that is at least one week in duration and depression that is at least two weeks in duration. In some cases, mental health professionals may give someone a diagnosis of Bipolar I when these episodes are shorter but intense enough to put that person in the hospital.
In Bipolar II, each stage is shorter, and the symptoms can be less intense. While it may be less severe, Bipolar II patients still need the same support, compassion, and quality of care as those with Bipolar I.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
Bipolar disorder causes manic moods in which patients become so manic that they stop taking care of the basic things in life, ignoring work, family, and even money. Manic stages can involve impulsive behavior that puts the individual and those around him at risk.
These patients also experience stages of deep depression, the polar opposite of their manic behaviors. Depressive stages can involve suicidal ideation and put patients at risk, as well.
These swings do not happen for a few moments or even a few days, but for weeks at end in some cases.
- Excessive energy levels
- Feelings of extreme elation
- Irritability with others
- Racing thoughts
- Excessive risk taking
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Low energy levels
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Disordered eating
- Feelings of emptiness and detachment
- Avoidance of favorite activities
- Suicidal thoughts
Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder
You cannot test for bipolar disorder with a blood test or a brain scan. The only way for a mental health professional to diagnose this disorder is to assess the patient in a clinical setting.
While therapists play a crucial role in assessing and supporting individuals with mental health concerns, diagnosing bipolar disorder typically requires the expertise of a licensed mental health professional with specific training in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses, such as a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist. These professionals have the knowledge and skills to conduct comprehensive assessments, review medical and psychiatric history, consider the duration and severity of symptoms, and differentiate between various mental health conditions.
Therapists, such as licensed counselors or social workers, may play a role in observing and discussing symptoms, but a definitive diagnosis of bipolar disorder typically involves a more in-depth evaluation by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. These professionals often use standardized diagnostic criteria (such as the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5) to make accurate diagnoses.
If you have symptoms that makes you believe you may have Bipolar Disorder it is best to seek out a trained medical professional for a formal Bipolar Disorder testing and evaluation.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
The foundation of treating bipolar disorder is mood-stabilizing medication. Devising a suitable medication regimen can be complicated at times, due to the variance between depression and mania. Antidepressants are some common medications, but using antidepressants can have a dangerous effect during manic episodes. After consulting with Alter Behavioral Health, you’ll be able to move forward with a medication regimen suited to your needs.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the role of thought patterns and behavior in enabling mental illness. While CBT cannot treat bipolar disorder on its own, it can help the patient regulate their emotions and undermine the thought patterns that lead to manic and depressive episodes. Recent studies have shown that psychotherapy combined with medication lead to the best outcomes for those with bipolar disorder.
One of the most important steps to take in improving the lives of those with bipolar disorder is education. By helping the patient and those close to them understand the condition, it’s possible to demystify and destigmatize it. This will lead to more supportive, productive relationships for all those involved.
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