Depression is a mood disorder and it can come in many forms, such as Post-postpartum Depression, Major Depressive Disorder, or Dysthymia. Sometimes depression is part of Bipolar Disorder. People with bipolar disorder experience episodes of severe mood swings. Their moods range from high-flying mania to soul-crushing depression. When manic, the person may feel very energetic and need little sleep. He or she may speak rapidly, become easily irritated, and have trouble staying still. A person in a manic high may go on shopping sprees or sex binges, which can wreck havoc on their bank accounts and personal relationships. The person may even become psychotic, having hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there) and delusions (holding false beliefs like thinking they can fly or that they can save the world with a genius idea). People like feeling manic; they feel invincible, special, powerful. The people around them realize they aren’t acting normally, but the person in the midst of a manic episode may not recognize it. It can be difficult to get someone who is manic into treatment, as they feel great and don’t want that feeling to end. They usually don’t see the need for treatment when they are manic, unless they have been treated before and recognize that they are in a manic phase again. If they seek treatment while manic, it’s often because their loved ones convince them to, or they become so out of control that they are involuntarily hospitalized.
No one likes feeling depressed, though, and when people with bipolar disorder crash into a depression, that’s usually when they seek treatment on their own. The symptoms for bipolar depression are the same as for Major Depressive Disorder (sad mood, tearfulness, changes in appetite and sleep, low energy, low motivation, etc.) The difference with bipolar disorder is that there is a pattern of recurrent depressions and manic episodes.
There are different types of bipolar disorder, including Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymia. Here is a review of the variations that bipolar disorder can take.
Bipolar disorder can be easily mistaken for other disorders. A physician may diagnose it as major depression if he or she is unaware of the client’s past manic episodes, or the doctor may diagnose schizophrenia if the client is psychotic while in a manic phase. Here is the story of one woman’s recurrent mental health issues and her eventual diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
Fortunately, once bipolar disorder is correctly diagnosed, treatment is available. Treatment may include mood stabilizers like lithium; anti-seizure medications like Depakote or Tegretol that are used as mood stabilizers; anti-psychotics; and antidepressants. However, since antidepressants can sometimes cause a person to cycle back into a manic episode, the person must be alert for manic symptoms and report those to the doctor right away. Sometimes a person may require hospitalization, but out-patient treatment is enough for many people. By working together with their physicians and therapists, people with bipolar disorder can manage their symptoms and live fulfilling lives.