Bipolar Disorder is characterized by a severe impairment in the ability to regulate emotion and swinging mood states. These mood states range from extremely low depressive state, to extremely high manic state. Manic states are characterized by an overjoyed, euphoric disposition, or it can consist of an irritable, short-tempered state.
Within this manic state, a change in behavior is also seen; such as participation in high-risk activities, lack of sleep, pressured and fast speech, and an increase in goal-oriented activities. This can vary from mild mania, known as hypomania, to severe mania. WebMD does a great job in their description of the difference between the two…
Hypomania: At first when I’m high, it’s tremendous … ideas are fast … like shooting stars you follow until brighter ones appear… . All shyness disappears, the right words and gestures are suddenly there … uninteresting people, things become intensely interesting. Sensuality is pervasive, the desire to seduce and be seduced is irresistible. Your marrow is infused with unbelievable feelings of ease, power, well-being, omnipotence, euphoria … you can do anything … but somewhere this changes.
Mania:The fast ideas start coming too fast and there are far too many … overwhelming confusion replaces clarity … you stop keeping up with it … memory goes. Infectious humor ceases to amuse. Your friends become frightened … everything is now against the grain … you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and trapped.
When someone is experiencing a manic state, they often show pressured speech, suddenly require less sleep to feel rested, have a flight of grandiose ideas, appear to be euphoric, enthusiastic, and extremely motivated. Sometimes, it can get so severe they begin hallucinating, drug use can increase, as well as an increase in spending and sexual behavior.
With Bipolar, where there is an up, a down often soon follows. This depressive state associated with Bipolar isn’t just “feeling blue,” it is severe, debilitating depression. Sometimes the depression can feel even more unbearable than it already is because it does seem to follow these amazing, euphoric mania phases.
When someone goes from a depressive state to a manic one, and vice versa, this is known as a “cycle”. Cycling can occur every few weeks, months, years, etc. However, there is also a cycle type called “Mixed Episodes” or “Rapid Cycling”, this is when someone meets criteria for a depressive and manic episode almost every day for at least one week.
It has been found that 1 in every 3 clients who experienced mania were still not able to work up to six months following a manic episode. Of those who did work, only 1 in 5 was able to work at their expected, or previous level of productivity. In addition, clients who are diagnosed with Bipolar tend to experience high rates of martial separation and divorce. Another study of clients with Bipolar Disorder found that only 33% were able to work full time, and 9% were able to work part time. The remaining 57% of participants were unable to work at all, or had to work in a protected setting. However, women who experience mania tend to show better functioning at work at follow-up when compared to males. In addition, clients of higher socioeconomic status show better outcomes than their low SES counterparts (Miklowitz, 2008).
Bipolar Mood Disorder and Substance Abuse
Bipolar can often go undiagnosed at first. Typically, the disorder does not begin showing up until late adolescence or early adulthood. When the symptoms begin, most people are unaware of what they have, and may begin using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Often when the mania becomes “too high” they’ll drink alcohol or some other depressant to bring them down, which sends them even quicker into a depressive episode. Once depressed, they will take something bring them up, maybe cocaine or meth, which can send them back into a manic phase. This cycle can become never ending if they do not receive therapy or get on proper mood-stabilizing medication. One study found that 61% of clients who were diagnosed with Bipolar Mood Disorder, when defined by the DSM-III, also met criteria for any type of substance abuse or dependence.
Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness that can greatly affect the quality of one’s life. Between the constant cycling from elated feelings of happiness during mania, to the sad, depressive feelings during a depressive state, it can certainly be hard to lead a normal life when one’s mood is constantly fluctuating. Luckily, research has come a long way to help develop better drugs, and therapy to help clients lead a normal life; however, there is still much work to be done to better the treatment options we offer these clients.
If you feel you may have Bipolar Mood Disorder, it is important to go get checked out by a Therapist and/or Psychiatrist so an effective diagnosis can be made. Still have more questions about Bipolar the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Website (DBSA). Also, if someone you know has Bipolar, check out this link onHelping A Loved One by DBSA. Also, please read the blog post “Living with Bipolar” from which the above photo came from.
Works Cited Where link not available
Miklowitz, D. J. (2008). Bipolar Disorder. In D. H. Barlow, & D. Barlow (Ed.),Clinical Handbook of Psychological Disorders: A step-by-step treatment manual(pp. 421-462). New York, NY: The Guilford Press