You have probably heard of the term “bipolar disorder.” Perhaps you know someone who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, or you think you may experience symptoms of bipolar disorder yourself. Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that was previously referred to as “manic depressive disorder.”
Types and Prevalence of Bipolar Disorder
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5) has classified five types of bipolar disorder, and 2.8% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with some type of bipolar disorder. The five types of bipolar disorders listed in the DSM-5 are:
Bipolar disorder “other specified”
Bipolar disorder “unspecified”
It is important to note that the DSM-5 lists bipolar disorder other specified and bipolar disorder unspecified as two separate diagnoses. However, both conditions represent a diagnosis of bipolar disorder when a person does not meet the criteria for bipolar I, bipolar II, or cyclothymic disorder. You can learn more information about the differences between bipolar I and bipolar II here.
Differences and Commonalities
What makes bipolar disorder distinct from other mental health disorders is its unique symptoms, particularly changes in energy levels, activity levels, and mood. The mood changes can range significantly from periods of intense energy to periods of very low mood. Periods of high energy are referred to as “manic episodes,” and periods of low mood are referred to as “depressive episodes.” Each form of bipolar disorder encompasses these symptoms to some degree; however, distinct differences exist.
Presence of hypomanic and depressive symptoms lasting at least two years.
Symptoms present do not meet the criteria for hypomania and depressive episodes.
Bipolar disorder “other specific” and “unspecified” are used when the individual:
Doesn’t meet the criteria for bipolar I, bipolar II, or cyclothymic disorder.
Experiences periods of clinically substantial mood disruption and mood elevation.
Understanding the differences among the types of bipolar diagnosis can help you and your doctor develop an effective treatment plan based on your symptoms and needs. Treatment is tailored to your goals and symptoms. It’s important to remember that everyone responds to treatment differently, so one method may work for one person but not another.
Medication such as anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, and mood stabilizers.
Complementary therapies such as meditation, prayer, and exercise.
Bipolar disorder is treatable. If you experience symptoms of bipolar disorder, you are not alone. If you believe you may be experiencing bipolar disorder, talk to your primary care physician and discuss whether telehealth or in-person treatment is best for you. If you have thoughts of suicide, call the national suicide crisis number at 800-273-8255. If you are considering acting on your thoughts, please call 911 or go to your local emergency department to get the support you may need. Valera Health can help you on your personal journey to wellness. We offer psychiatric and therapeutic services through telemedicine for anxiety, depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a clinical diagnosis for a person who experiences significant changes in energy levels, mood, activity levels, and thought processes. Bipolar disorder has historically been called manic-depressive disorder. Five types of bipolar disorder that mental health professionals can diagnose are:
Bipolar disorder “other specific”
Bipolar disorder “unspecified.”
You can learn more about the differences between bipolar I and bipolar II disorder here.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
While each type of bipolar disorder has a unique set of symptoms, some commonalities exist. Each type of bipolar disorder is marked by extremely energetic symptoms, also known as manic symptoms, and low symptoms, also known as depression.
Having sleep problems (e.g., sleeping too much, or difficulty falling and staying asleep).
Experiencing increased appetite.
Feeling sad and hopeless.
Having little to no energy.
Thinking of death, including thoughts of suicide.
Having difficulty concentrating.
Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder
Only a mental health or medical professional can diagnose bipolar disorder. It is also important to examine other factors that can contribute to the symptoms of bipolar disorder, such as medical complications and substance use.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can reflect symptoms of other mental health disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder, so it’s important to rule out other possible mental health diagnoses.
Drug and alcohol use can contribute to the development of some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder. For example, the use of hallucinogens such as methamphetamines can cause high energy, rapid speech, and delusions.
Underlying medical problems can influence the presence and development of symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Comprehensive testing for bipolar disorder includes a complete physical exam, medical tests to rule out any other illnesses, and a psychiatric evaluation by a mental health professional.
Bipolar disorder is treatable through interventions such as talk therapy, medication, and other complementary therapies. However, a proper diagnosis is needed to create an effective treatment plan.
If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, you are not alone. In fact, 2.3 million Americans have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and researchers believe the number of people affected is even higher. Bipolar disorder can be managed, and the symptoms can be treated through medical interventions such as therapy and medication. Proper diagnosis is important so an effective treatment plan can be created for you. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, speak to your doctor about whether telehealth or in-person treatment is best for you. If you have thoughts of suicide, call the national suicide crisis number at 800-273-8255. If you are considering acting on your thoughts or have a plan for suicide, please call 911 or go to your local emergency department immediately.
Valera Health offers doctors and therapists through telemedicine that are available to help you navigate your personal journey to improved wellness.
Bipolar disorder is a diagnosable mental health disorder that affects many people. In fact, bipolar disorder has been diagnosed in more than 2 million adults in the United States, and researchers believe the number of Americans who have bipolar disorder is even higher. However, there are things we can do to help support those who experience bipolar disorder.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by intense mood changes, thought processes, and behaviors. The changes in mood can be intense and severe and include patterns of mania and patterns of depression. The 5 types of bipolar disorder are bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder, bipolar disorder “unspecified” and bipolar disorder “otherwise specified”. While there are differences among the types of bipolar disorder, they all encompass symptoms of both mania and depression.
Bipolar disorder can impact a person’s behavior and, oftentimes, the behaviors can present negatively. For example, excessive spending, drug and alcohol use, and difficulty adhering to work and personal responsibilities can all be symptoms of bipolar disorder. While difficult to experience and accept at times, these behaviors are not character flaws but are symptoms of a person’s mental health disorder. Work on recognizing that these behaviors are symptoms of an illness and not reflective of a person’s personality or intentions.
If you love someone or care for someone who has a mental illness such as bipolar disorder, be sure to take care of your own physical, mental, and spiritual needs. Engage in pleasurable activities, take breaks throughout your day, eat well, and get adequate rest. This can also include attending support groups and seeking therapy for yourself. You’ve heard the adage about taking care of yourself so that you can support and care for others; this is certainly true when helping someone experiencing mental illness.
When your loved one is in a healthy emotional place (not experiencing an episode of mania or depression), discuss the plan for a manic episode. This can look like creating a schedule, identifying healthy creative outlets for energy, and helping with finances and spending. You can start the conversation by asking the person “what would be helpful to you when you notice yourself experiencing symptoms of mania” or “what can I do to help you effectively manage your symptoms when you experience a manic episode?”.
Having a non-judgmental, listening ear can help your loved one feel supported and safe to discuss any symptoms. It may also help your loved one feel more comfortable asking for help or coming to you when symptoms of a manic or depressive episode begin to occur. It can be helpful to ask the person “How have you managed your symptoms of bipolar disorder so well?” or “What can I do to help you when you are experiencing symptoms?”.
Try to remember that your loved one experiences thoughts and emotions that feel real, even if they aren’t based on facts and reality. For example, disputing the thoughts of people with bipolar disorder and telling them to calm down when they are experiencing intense emotions can escalate symptoms. Instead, try to remain calm during these situations and recognize that their reality is true to them. A validating statement can look like “I see you are experiencing strong emotions right now and that’s okay” or “it makes sense why you think or feel that way”. This normalizes and validates their internal experience (thoughts and emotions).
If you believe you may be experiencing bipolar disorder, talk to your primary care physician and discuss whether telehealth or in-person treatment is best for you. If you have thoughts of suicide, call the national suicide crisis number at 800-273-8255. If you are considering acting on your thoughts, please call 911 or go to your local emergency department to get the support you may need. Medical and mental health professionals can help you manage these symptoms. Getting help can be as easy as contacting Valera Health. We provide psychiatric and mental health telemedicine services to help you pursue your personal journey toward wellness.