At Milestones Ranch Malibu, we understand how disabling a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder can be – for both the diagnosed individual and family members. Our expert medical staff works closely with our experienced and caring clinicians to provide evidence-based treatment planning and interventions, in addition to addressing addiction or other mental health issues present.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar Disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive disorder, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy level, and capacity to function. It is different from the normal ups and downs we all experience. The symptoms of Bipolar Disorder are debilitating, and can result in fractured relationships, poor academic performance, occupation instability, high-risk behavior, self-harm or suicide. Bipolar I Disorder involves recurrent episodes of mania and depression. Some people never experience a manic episode, but instead experience the milder hypomanic episodes that alternate with depression, a disorder referred to as Bipolar II. Additionally, some people experience alternating symptoms within the same week, or even within a single day.
Bipolar Disorder may initially appear to be a problem other than mental illness, e.g., alcohol or drug abuse, chronically poor academic or occupational performance, inconsistent or few interpersonal relationships. In fact, such problems may be signs of an underlying Bipolar or related disorder, such as Cyclothymic Disorder. Bipolar individuals may self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine, or other psychotropic drugs, which worsen the condition. For instance, excessive sleep can contribute to depressive mood, while inadequate sleep can foster mixed states or mania. Caffeine can destabilize one’s mood, contributing to irritability, low mood, and or hypomania. Inadequate stress management, poor self-care skills and harmful lifestyle choices can also contribute to a recurrence of bipolar symptoms.
What causes bipolar disorder?
Studies suggest that genetics, early environment, neurobiology, and psychological and social processes are important contributory factors. A clear organic cause has not yet been found. Most scientists agree that there is no single cause for Bipolar and related disorders, but rather, many factors combine to produce the illness.
What are some common symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
- Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
- Excessively elevated, euphoric mood
- Extreme irritability
- Racing thoughts and talking very quickly, jumping from one idea to another
- Distractibility, poor concentration
- Little sleep needed
- Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers
- Poor judgment
- Spending sprees
- An enduring pattern of behavior that is markedly different from usual
- Increased sexual drive
- Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
- Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
- Denial that anything is wrong
- Sad, anxious mood or feelings of emptiness
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Inappropriate feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Decreased energy, fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, decision-making
- Excessive or difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Episodes of mania or depression may include symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations (imagining sensory experiences that are not real; and delusions (false thoughts or beliefs).
Hypomania shares many of the same symptoms of mania, however without the presence of delusions or hallucinations. It is distinguished from mania by its lesser degree of impact on functioning. The person feels a similarly elevated mood, decreased need for sleep, mild irritability, and increased goal-directed activity (although typically with an inability to see tasks to completion). There is usually similar risk-taking behavior with disregard for the consequences, such as increased spending, unsafe sexual activity and grandiose sense of self. Hypomania may feel pleasurable to the person who experiences it and may even be associated with enhanced functioning and productivity. However, hypomania is still debilitating and requires proper medical and psychological treatment.
Who is susceptible to bipolar disorder?
More than 2 million American adults, or about 1 percent of the population age 18 and older in any given year, have Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood.
Bipolar Disorder Treatment Methods:
Medication, combined with psychological treatment, is the current standard of care. Mood stabilizers include Lithium, Depakote and Tegretol. Newer anticonvulsant medications may also be prescribed by the treating psychiatrist, e.g., Lamictal, Neurontin, Topamax.
Psychosocial interventions commonly used by Milestones clinical staff for the treatment of Bipolar Disorder include Cognitive Behavioral therapy, Dialectical Behavior therapy, psycho-education, and family therapy. Cognitive Behavioral therapy helps bipolar clients learn to change inaccurate or negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with the illness. Dialectical Behavior therapy teaches emotional regulation and behavior management skills.
Psycho-education involves teaching people with Bipolar Disorder about the nature of illness, treatment, and how to recognize signs of symptom reoccurrence so that early intervention can be sought before an episode occurs. Psycho-education is also helpful for family members. Family therapy uses strategies to reduce the level of distress within the family that may either contribute to, or result from, the client’s symptoms. Please contact us for more information about our treatment options.
We hope the information contained in this article has been helpful for you. Please feel free to contact us at Milestones Ranch Malibu with any questions or comments you may have. Call: (800) 791-6859 for assistance.