“I feel like I'm a snow globe and someone shook me up and now every little piece of me is falling back randomly and nothing is ending up where it used to be”
This illness is also known as bipolar affective disorder and manic-depressive illness
Most people experience occasional ups and downs in their emotions. But people with bipolar disorder, experience extreme shifts (or episodes) between periods of elevated mood (manic) and periods of depression. Bipolar disorder is an illness affecting areas of the brain governing mood, behaviour and judgment. Bipolar disorder symptoms can significantly impair and adversely affect the quality of life.
Bipolar disorder can be treated. In the treatment it is important to be able to recognize symptoms of mania, hypomania and depression. Since it is often difficult to spot these symptoms in yourself, it may be useful to ask those in your environment to help you.
A depressive episode is characterized by a period of at least two weeks during which one experiences a depressed mood for most of the day and/or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities. The following symptoms may also be present:
- Changes in sleep
- Significant weight change or changes in appetite
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Loss of perspective
- Suicidal thoughts or plans to commit suicide
Depression may also be accompanied by hearing voices, feeling confused or losing touch with reality. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important that you seek help immediately.
A manic episode is characterized by a period of at least a week during which one may experience the following symptoms:
- Abnormally good mood (feeling of euphoria)
- Decreased need for sleep
- Concentration problems
- Increased energy
- An irritable mood
- Heightened ego/ inflated sense of self
People experiencing a manic episode often:
- Experience racing thoughts
- Are more talkative
- Experience a flight of ideas
- Impulsive or irresponsible behavior ( sexual promiscuity and extravagant spending)
These symptoms can be problematic if for example they result in debt and/or put previously stable relationships in jeopardy. One should seek help immediately if manic episodes are accompanied by hallucinations and/or delusions.
Like with mania, people experiencing a hypomanic episode are usually in a better mood and are more energetic than usual. The symptoms of a hypomanic episode are however less severe than a manic episode. A hypomanic episode lasts for at least four days. The professionals of PsyQ International can help you with stabilizing your mood and managing the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder.
Treatment for bipolar disorder most often includes a combination of a mood-stabilizing drug and psychotherapy. Although drug treatment is primary, ongoing psychotherapy is important to help patients better cope with the condition.
In the first phase of treatment psychiatrists typically recommend medication as initial treatment to stabilise the mood. Once symptoms are under control, maintenance of treatment is very important: without it, risk of relapse is higher.
Accepting the diagnosis
For many people, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is distressing, especially when they learn that they’ll have to take medication their entire life. Acceptance of a mental illness is a process in which the therapist can help find the balance and routines in living a healthy and happy life. In this phase of treatment you also make a relapse plan. In this plan you describe with and for your close ones, what the first signs are of a depression or (mild) mania and what you can do in those situations.
Long-term monitoring is valuable in bipolar disorder to facilitate recognition of the variability in the mood swings associated with the condition, including identification of symptom-free intervals. Ongoing monitoring also provides an early warning system and method to recognize any patterns of stressful life events that may act as triggers.
Together with the therapist you will fill in a mood chart. This will provide input on the daily documentation and information about the condition and how to manage lifestyle (sleep, difficult situations, negative thoughts etc).