PSYCH REVIEW

Gain Control of Bipolar Disorder

Variety of Moods

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You experience a normal variation of moods. Perhaps you are timid and quiet. Maybe the party does’t begin until you enter the room with a boisterous personality. Is your popular disposition either of these extremes or are you somewhere in the middle? Situations and hormones can effect moods. You laugh out loud at something funny or feel sad when a friend is ill. These variables have momentary duration.

Overreactions

Take it up a level. Imagine that a restaurant serves you the wrong meal. How do you respond? You could simply ask for a replacement. Imagine that this irritates you to the point where you hurl the plate against the wall.

You climb atop a table and shout belittling remarks at the server. Raising your voice further, you approach other diners to relate how egregious the mistake is. Kicking over some chairs and wastebaskets, you storm out before the police arrive.

At home, heightened emotions continue. You dial up friends and ramble on the phone about the incident for as long as each ear will listen. This continues past midnight and into the next morning. A family member arrives by noon and you are still seething over the incident. As she places her arms around you for consolation, you shove her to the floor.

Next comes a period of solemn withdrawal. Your mind fills with negative thoughts. “No one cares. Nothing is satisfying.” You are critical of others and yourself. You hate the weather, your situation, and how you feel. You try to escape these thoughts with as much sleep as possible.

Reasons For Atypical Behavior

These are two ends of the bipolar spectrum. Extremes can include violence or self-harm. Though no trigger is necessary, environmental and personal factors called ‘triggers’ (e.g. stressful events or disruption to sleep patterns) can spark bipolar behaviors. The span of things that trigger episodes is as wide as the range of emotions.

Common Bipolar Triggers
  • Stressful negative or positive life events (e.g. the birth of a baby, a promotion, losing a job, ending a relationship, or moving out of a house).
  • Disruption to sleep patterns (e.g. due to jet lag or social events). Decreases in the time the person sleeps can contribute to hypomanic or manic symptoms, and increases in sleep or bedrest may sometimes be followed by depressive symptoms.
  • Disruption to routine. A regular structure (e.g. established bedtime and wake time, regular activities and social contact) can help to maintain the body’s sleep patterns and usual energy levels.
  • Too much stimulation from external sources (e.g. clutter, traffic, noise, light, crowds, work deadlines or social activities).
  • Too much stimulation from within the person. (e.g. overstimulation from lots of activity and excitement when the person tries to achieve challenging goals or having stimulating substances like caffeine (e.g. in coffee or cola) or nicotine (e.g. cigarettes or nicotine patches).
  • Abusing alcohol or street drugs.
  • Conflict and stressful interactions with people.
  • Illness that is not treated or managed.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic or episodic (which means occurring occasionally and at irregular intervals) mental disorder. It generally manifests between teenage and 20s. Later occurrence is mostly because of earlier misdiagnosis.

Between 5 and 10 percent of people with bipolar disorder are at least 50 when they first show symptoms of mania or hypomania. The biological vulnerability includes changes in brain chemicals and functioning as well as hormonal and immune changes in the body.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Here’s what you can do when a loved one is severely depressed.

The duration and frequency of episodes, and other factors help mental health professionals to diagnose bipolar 1 or bipolar 2. The latter generally has more frequent depressive moods. When hypomania, a heightened sense of being, is expressed through obsessions or creativity, it is easy to overlook as a symptom.

Diagnosis is difficult when patients visit only during one feeling, like depression, without revealing the other extreme. Misdiagnoses leads to improper treatment and prescriptions that can exacerbate mania.

Treatment For Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder treatment includes a combination of these medications in conjunction with psychotherapy and other supportive methods.

  • Mood stabilizers
  • Anti-psychotics
  • Anti-depressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications

Get Support For Bipolar Disorder

Close family and bipolar caregivers can be a primary source of support for a person with bipolar disorder. If available in your area, family members can take a free 8-session course offered by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) called Family-to-Family. It helps caregivers deal with serious brain disorders.

In the USA – You may contact your local office of NAMI: National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)In Canada – Join the Mood Disorders Society of Canada—and also (if appropriate and the diagnosis is unclear) check out the local chapter of The Schizophrenia Society of Canada.

There are other reasons for hostility or fits of anger. Please do not use this article to diagnose others or yourself. If you have concerns about your own emotions or that of a family member, see your regular physician or use the published resources for immediate help.

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