What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder, which was formerly known as manic depression, is a mood disorder characterized by an alternating pattern of emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression). While mania and depression usually occur separately, bipolar disorder occasionally involves mixed state episodes in which both symptoms are present. The mood swings associated with bipolar can occur very quickly and seemingly without cause, and the intensity of both the mania and depression can vary from mild to severe. Both the highs and lows of bipolar disorder represent significant differences from the afflicted individual’s usual personality.
There are three primary types of bipolar disorder:
- Bipolar I: Individuals with Type I bipolar experience manic and depressive episodes of varying lengths and severity.
- Bipolar II: Individuals with Type II bipolar experience depressive episodes similar to those that characterize bipolar I, but their manic episodes will not be as intense. The manic episodes of Bipolar II are often referred to as hypomanic episodes.
- Cyclothymia (cyclothymic disorder): Individuals experience both manic and depressive episodes, but the episodes are milder than are those experienced by individuals with bipolar I or II, but have occurred for at least two years.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by drastic and sudden changes in mood, from unnatural highs (the manic phase) to devastating lows (the depressive phase). While changes in feeling state and moods are a natural part of life for most people, the swings experienced by bipolar individuals are exaggerated and can be debilitating. Bipolar episodes may be triggered by external stimuli, or can occur with no apparent cause. The symptom list below is by no means comprehensive, as each person experiences the disorder differently, but these are some of the more common manifestations.
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Behavioral symptoms (manic episodes):
- Rapid speech
- Impulsive actions
- Heightened energy, including no apparent need for sleep
- Engaging in risky or reckless activities (i.e. spending sprees, heightened sexual activity, gambling binges, etc.)
Behavioral symptoms (depressive episodes):
- Expressions of despair or extreme pessimism
- Hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
- No interest in activities that the person usually finds important or pleasurable
- Withdrawal from family, friends, and other associates
Physical symptoms (manic episodes):
- Heightened state of alertness and energy
- Voracious appetite
- High sex drive
Physical symptoms (depressive episodes):
- Low energy and/or extreme fatigue
- Sleep problems (either insomnia or excessive sleepiness)
- Loss of appetite
- Little to no interest in sex
Cognitive symptoms (manic episodes):
- Feelings of extreme creativity
- Racing mind, jumping from thought to thought
- Delusions of grandeur
- Supreme self-confidence and optimism
- Unrealistically positive expectations for the future
- Inability to concentrate or focus on one task or issue
Cognitive symptoms (depressive episodes):
- Inability to concentrate
- Memory problems
- Thoughts of suicide or other forms of self-harm
Psychosocial symptoms (manic episodes):
- Expressions of unrealistic plans or goals
- Lashing out at others who fail to show expected enthusiasm or support
- Acting with little to no consideration for consequences
- High levels of enthusiasm and excitement
Psychosocial symptoms (depressive episodes):
- Expressions of anger, disgust, or disdain with self and world
- Obsession with death, especially talking about or attempting suicide
- Feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and despair
What are the effects of bipolar disorder?
The symptoms of bipolar often have some degree of negative consequences, those consequences can be felt by loved ones, children, co-workers, and employees who have to adjust to the ups and downs. While we acknowledge that not true in every instance, some common effects of untreated bipolar disorder include the following:
- Strained, damaged, or ruined interpersonal relationships
- Career setbacks, work-related failures, and potential loss of employment
- Legal and financial problems due to reckless behaviors
- Physical problems and diseases as a result of substance abuse and unsafe sexual practices
- Inability to care for oneself
- Self-harming behaviors
How PTI Can Help
Conditions like bipolar disorder have the potential to produce chaos in the lives of those afflicted by it. An illness that induces oscillating moods that vary from feelings of euphoria to feelings of utter despair, bipolar disorder can cause sufferers to feel as though they have lost control of their minds. While some people with this illness will experience more emotional highs than emotional lows and vice versa, there are others still who suffer from rapid-cycling, in which their moods can change unexpectedly in a manner of minutes. The loss of control that individuals suffering from bipolar disorder experience on an ongoing basis can leave them feeling as though every day is an uphill battle.
When men and women are suffering from the symptoms of bipolar disorder, they have many options for treatment interventions that they can partake in that will assist in alleviating their distressing concerns. When these people are denied access to treatment, however, the consequences can be devastating, far-reaching, and long-lasting. Individuals with bipolar disorder often engage in behaviors that are confusing to those around them, leaving them in a place of isolation, feeling misunderstood. During the euphoric highs that are characteristic of bipolar disorder, individuals are likely to engage in high-risk behaviors because they feel that they are invincible. Drug and/or alcohol abuse is vast amongst people with bipolar disorder as they try to, consciously or unconsciously, self-medicate their distressing symptoms. The longer that the use and abuse of substances continues, the more likely these individuals are to experience overdose and the detrimental health consequences that occur as a result. Suicidal ideation is often a prominent aspect of the lives of people with bipolar disorder as well. Additionally, engaging in self-harming behaviors is common, rendering individuals susceptible to adverse health consequences.
Our therapists use a blend of conventional, complementary, and evidence-based treatments, striving to support each person’s unique capacity to flourish and achieve overall wellness. PTI works collaboratively with clients to decrease symptoms, while offering experience with tools to facilitate life functioning, moving towards freedom from the turmoil elicited by the manic highs and depressive lows of bipolar disorder. Therapy for bipolar disorder will likely incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy and/or elements of dialectical behavior therapy, in addition to continuously providing psychodynamic experiential therapy throughout the course of the therapeutic process.
Additional Issues Therapy for Bipolar Disorder is Likely to Address
- Healing anxiety
- Managing stress
- Learning about codependency and coping skills
- Holistic options for healthier living
- Experiential tools for learning how to express anger in a healthy and productive manner
- Relapse prevention
- Working through grief and loss
- Identifying and processing feelings of shame to move to a place of resilience
Some Interventions Utilized in the Therapeutic Process at PTI
- Art therapy
- Play therapy
- Movement therapy
- Chi Kung
- Mindfulness meditation
- SE (Somatic Experiencing)
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)/Bilateral Stimulation