Bipolar disorder is an often misunderstood mood disorder. As with most mental health issues, there is more awareness around bipolar disorder, but that awareness isn’t always accurate. Bipolar disorder involves severe mood shifts from depression to mania. These mood swings are not short lived, like a typical bad or great day, but are disruptive to everyday life. These mood swings can last weeks or months, challenging an individual’s ability to manage work, school, and relationships.
Mania symptoms include; extreme excitement, happiness, irritability, restlessness, less need for sleep, increased energy and a tendency to make elaborate, unachievable plans or goals. Hypomania refers to an elevated mood that doesn’t quite reach a manic state. Depression symptoms include; guilt, sadness, lack of energy, uncontrollable crying, irritability, change in sleeping patterns, thoughts of death or suicide, and difficulty making decisions. There are several different types of bipolar disorder which can be broken down into:
Bipolar I – an individual has had one or more episodes of mania and at least one depressive episode. This is the most severe form of the disorder.
Bipolar II – an individual has had one or more episode of major depression and at least one episode of hypomania.
Mixed episodes – an individual experiences both mania and depressives symptoms at the same time or in very rapid succession.
Rapid Cycling – an individual experiences at least 4 episodes of mania or depression within a year.
Cyclothymia – this is a milder form of bipolar disorder where an individual experience hypomania and less severe depressive symptoms. In order to be diagnosed with cyclothymia the symptoms must be present for at least two years.
It often takes several years for an individual experiencing bipolar disorder to be properly diagnosed. Part of that may be because individuals are hesitant to see hypomania or even mania symptoms as something to discuss with their health care providers. With proper treatment and medication, mood swings can be managed and an individual with any type of bipolar disorder can lead a fulfilling, fully functional life.