Most commonly diagnosed between ages 15-25, although it can become evident at any age. Bipolar is a serious mental health illness made up of manic/hypomanic, depressive episodes or mixed episodes. Identifying and treating the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder quickly can reduce the harmful effects.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar can appear with signs and symptoms of severe mood instability; with changes that can occur in very quick succession or over a longer period. Changes in mood may last for a short time or several weeks. Between the extreme highs and lows, moods may seem to return to more normal range. Bipolar disorder is not the same as the more normal fluctuations in mood, seen during the teenage years of rapid developmental change.
Changes in mood can be extreme. Depression, irritability and low activity and mood can be seen, followed by mania or hypomania; extreme highs, fast paced activity, insomnia, creativity, restlessness, mania and a feeling of being able to achieve. Sometimes moods can be a combination or change rapidly over a 24 hour or extended period.
Mania can be so intense that it infers with daily living activities. During a manic episode it can be difficult for the sufferer to be directed to a more settled or calm way of being. They may make irrational decisions or engage in high risk behaviours, despite severe consequences.
Hypomania is a milder form of mania, although a definite change in emotional state can be seen by others, however it is not as severe as a manic episode described above. Friends, family and work colleagues will notice that the mood has significantly changed enough for them to feel concerned or notice the unusual behaviours.
Left untreated, Bipolar Disorder can have a profound impact on home, work, school, family and relationships.
There are Four main types of Bipolar. Bipolar Disorder I and Bipolar Disorder II are the most commonly diagnosed.
Bipolar I Disorder. - Manic episodes lasting for seven days or longer. Manic episodes that can be so extreme that immediate hospitalisation is required. Frequently, all though not always, depressive episodes will also be evident; lasting two weeks or longer. Mixed episodes; for example, depression with manic features is also possible. Changes in character are noted. Psychosis may or may not be present. Hallucinations may or may not be present.
Bipolar II Disorder - pattern of a major depressive episode and hypomania. Mood cycles lasting from days to weeks. Hypomania is less severe than Mania evident in Bipolar I Disorder.
Cyclothymic Disorder - Numerous, short episodes of depressive symptoms that have been persistent for at least one year in adolescents and two years in adults.
Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders - Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder that do not first clearly into the diagnostic criteria of one of the three categories outlined above.
Bipolar Disorder and Young People
Bipolar Disorder is very rarely seen in young children. Bipolar Disorder appear to become evident during the teenage years, into adolescence and young adulthood. Bipolar Disorder affects about 1 in 100 Young Adults.
There are indications that Bipolar has a genetic component. It may be more likely that a diagnosis of Bipolar is made in young people where at least one close family member has either Bipolar or another serious mental health condition. Environmental factors; Childhood trauma, significant stress, traumatic events, loss and grief may also trigger Bipolar Disorder. There are also some studies which evidence structural brain changes, hormonal imbalances and other neurological indicators. Whilst research continues, we are able to see that there could be many reasons why Bipolar is evident, however there is no one cause nor definitive cure.
Families can help during the stages prior to admission or seeking treatment. It can be difficult for young people to keep track of the moods or phases that they experience. Families can help by keeping diaries of mood and monitoring changes. It can also help if the diary includes and unusual behaviours or beliefs that are experienced. It is useful if you take this diary with you for your appointment or when you arrive in treatment.
Bipolar Disorder and Addiction (Substance Use Disorder)
Young People (and adults) may try to self-medicate or manage their symptoms with alcohol, prescription medications (not prescribed for them) or street drugs. They may believe that this offers some form of temporary relief from the suffering and symptoms. They may use medications or alcohol to help them sleep, slow down racing thoughts, numb feelings or pick them up during low moods. Initially, they may find some relief from both the symptoms and the shame that they may be experiencing. However, over time they will become increasingly tolerant to the self-medicating, requiring more of the substances to produce the same effect. This coupled with impaired judgement and impulsivity can cause further problems in behaviour and mood stability.
Can Bipolar be treated?
Treatment is effective for many people. Gaining insight and increased control over mood swings and other symptoms of Bipolar Disorder is possible. It is essential to seek treatment as early as possible. Untreated Bipolar Disorder can severely impact life and healthy development throughout teenage years and into adulthood. Treatment is usually a combination of medication and psychotherapy, with educational components. Treatment in an inpatient or residential facility is often preferred for those young people with severe symptoms, community triggers, drug and alcohol use, psychosis, hallucinations, delusions or where there is another diagnosis present (Anxiety, Suicidal thoughts, self-harm, ADHD). Residential treatment is also beneficial where outpatient services have not succeeded, or medication compliance and treatment adherence is low.
At The Wave, you will meet our Consultant Psychiatrist on admission. Together with the medical and nursing teams they will help you to explain they types of symptoms that you have experienced. The Wave Clinical Team will help you to describe your thoughts and feelings and together they will create a treatment plan with you. If you have been using drugs, alcohol or substances prior to admission, we will help you to comfortably detox, whilst we assess your progress and care plan.
Managing Bipolar Disorder
Routine and planning are important for anyone with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. Healthy eating, a good nutritional plan, a planned weekly schedule and daily exercise is essential. Having a routine that includes support and regularly medical and therapy appointments is beneficial and provides a foundation for successfully managing the symptoms of Bipolar. At The Wave you will experience an activity focused treatment schedule, with days full of therapeutic, life tools, creative, sports, cultural and adventure activities. Our schedules have been designed with young people in mind. We believe in the value of positive, new experiences and connection in relationship.
Bipolar is a serious mental health condition that can cause severe changes in mood, activity levels and left untreated can have serious long-term consequences.
Hallucinations and delusions (seeing, hearing or experiencing or holding beliefs that are not really there).
Medication can be beneficial in managing the symptoms of Bipolar. You may be prescribed medications to help you to manage the symptoms. Medications may include mood stabilisers, antipsychotic medication, Medication to assist with sleeping, and possibly antidepressants. Your Psychiatrist or mental Health professional will work with you to achieve balance. Sometimes medications maybe needed for months, years or longer. It is important to listen to medical advice and follow instruction on when to take medication. It may take some time to find the correct balance of medications to help.
A combination of Medication and Psychotherapy can help young people to manage the mood changes and unpleasant experiences of bipolar.
Those with Bipolar may have symptoms for several weeks, followed by a period of reduced or manageable symptoms. This can be confusing for the young person and those around them. It is important not to stop taking medications during periods when you feel ‘well’. Medications can take some time to reach a level of optimums effect. Stopping abruptly is dangerous and can see a return of symptoms.
Mania and Hypomania are terms that describe a high or heightened mood. Symptoms include:
- Feeling ‘up’, ‘high’, ‘excitable’
- Feeling, ‘wired’, pacing or agitated
- Difficulty sleeping
- Racing thoughts (which can sometimes be acted upon)
- Rapid speech, sometime difficult to keep on track or follow
- Feel like they can do many things at one, jumping from task to task
- Take risks, impulsivity, not seeming to evaluate situations.
- Rapid spending, unsafe sex, drug or alcohol use.
- Low mood and down/depressive mood
- Depressed, low, sad, preoccupied are described in the low phase
- Feeling very sad, alone, misunderstood
- Feeling empty, numb, hopeless
- Low energy, self-care and daily tasks maybe difficult
- Sleep regulation problems. Too much or too little sleep
- Lack of pleasure or enjoyment
- Worry, fear, dread
- Difficulty concentrating, losing or forgetting things
- Increased or decreased food consumption
- Thoughts of death, dying, failure, suicide
Don't suffer alone
Manic Depression is the old term for Bipolar Disorder. Whilst, it is not used any longer in the medical community, it maybe something that you overhear. Bipolar Disorder and the type of Disorder are the more accurate ways to describe your illness to others.
The most obvious difference between Bipolar I and Bipolar II lies in the severity of the manic episodes. Mania is seen in Bipolar I whilst the less severe, Hypomania is seen in Bipolar II. Bipolar Type II tends to have more pronounced depressive episodes.
A person in a depressed phase is more likely to reach out for help than during the mania stages. Indeed, some sufferers describe ‘likely’ the manic phases, as they feel elated, invincible and have an abundance of energy to complete tasks. In the low mood cycle, depression can last for a considerable time with an increased risk of self-harming behaviours and suicidal thoughts, ideas, or actions.
Sometimes people may experience a mix or low and high symptoms simultaneously. They may feel fast, energised, racing thoughts coupled with hopelessness and emptiness.
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