To experience exquisite moments of joy is one of the sweetest ways to feel human. While less enticing, it is equally human to experience periods of pronounced sadness. We naturally respond to the ebb and flow of life through our emotions. While healthy emotional expression is a necessary aspect of overall health, not all individuals are able to channel their emotions with such ease.
For individuals with bipolar disorder, normal emotional expression is marked by moments of either extreme mania or dark depression. Classified as a manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder causes erratic shifts in an individual’s mood and energy level. While it is normal for all individuals to experience periodic highs and lows, those with bipolar disorder exhibit more severe shifts in moods – typically drastic and emotionally charged.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, most individuals with bipolar disorder initially experience it during their younger years. Recent data suggests that bipolar disorder affects 2.6 percent of the US population, with an astounding 83 percent of cases deemed severe. Despite the specific type, bipolar disorder is classified as “severe” based on how strongly the symptoms interfere with the individual’s quality of life. More specifically, nearly 50 percent of bipolar cases begin before the individual turns 25.
Mania and Depression
Similar to health conditions such as autoimmune disorders or diabetes, bipolar disorder is a chronic condition, requiring consistent behavioral and lifestyle modifications. Although each individual will be unique in their symptoms, most individuals with bipolar disorder experience intense mood swings of mania or depression. The following are symptoms associated with a manic episode:
- Prolonged period of high energy and extreme happiness
- Engaging in impulsive and high-risk behaviors, such as having unprotected sex or doing drugs
- Talking rapidly and moving quickly from one topic to the next
- Restless behavior, including sleeping very little
The following are symptoms associated with a depressive episode:
- Prolonged periods of sadness or “the blues”
- Feeling fatigued
- Increased thoughts of death and/or suicide
- Behavioral changes, specifically with eating or sleeping habits
While all individuals with bipolar will vary in the frequency, duration and intensity of their symptoms, the disorder is a chronic condition. According to the DSM-V, there are four distinct types of bipolar: bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BP-NOS) and cyclothymic disorder.
- Bipolar I disorder. Individuals will shift back and forth between periods of mania and depression. Typically, each manic period lasts a minimum of seven days and each depressive episode lasts a minimum of two weeks.
- Bipolar II disorder. Individuals will experience periods of both mania and depression, but not full-blown episodes. While the symptoms are still problematic, the intensity and duration is less severe than those with bipolar 1 disorder.
- Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BP-NOS). These individuals exhibit the classic symptoms of bipolar disorder, but without the severity of bipolar 1 or ll. Typically, individuals with this type of bipolar will experience extreme mania and depression, but to less severe degrees as the other classifications.
- Clyclothymic disorder. These individuals will still experience manic and depressive episodes, often spanning for a minimum of two years, but fail to meet the specific criteria for bipolar 1, ll, or BP-NOS.
By acknowledging and honoring bipolar disorder, individuals suffering can reclaim their lives. Although it is a chronic condition, bipolar disorder does not have to hinder your happiness or quality of life. With the help of medication, therapy and lifestyle modifications, individuals suffering from any classification of bipolar disorder can find hope again.
If you have any questions about bipolar disorder, please don’t hesitate to contact us here at The Oaks at La Paloma.