What is Bipolar Disorder?

Someone with Bipolar Disorder will typically experience emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). Some people will experience mixed episodes, where they have symptoms of mania and depression at the same time.  Bipolar Disorder used be called manic depression.

There are actually several different kinds of Bipolar Disorders, e.g., Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, and Cyclothymic Disorder.

What is Bipolar I Disorder?

In order to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder, a manic episode must have occurred. Although an episode of depression is not required for a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder, most people with a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder will also experience one or more episodes of depression at some point.

What is Bipolar II Disorder?

A diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder is given when someone has experienced a hypomanic episode, as well as a past or present episode of major depression.

What is the difference between Bipolar I and Bipolar II?

A diagnosis of Bipolar I is given when someone has met criteria for a past or current manic episode. A diagnosis of Bipolar II is given when someone has met criteria for a past or current hypomanic episode as well as a current or past episode of major depression.

What is Cyclothymic Disorder?

When symptoms of mania, hypomania, or depression are present for at least 2 years for adults or 1 year for children and adolescents, without ever reaching criteria for a full episode of mania, hypomania, or depression.

What is a Manic or a Hypomanic Episode?

Mania and hypomania both involve having an elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, as well as an increase in energy or activity levels. This mood can also include things like: having an elevated or even grandiose level of self-esteem, needing less sleep, excessive or fast talking, racing thoughts or ideas, being easily distracted by external stimuli, and involvement with activities where negative consequences are likely (e.g., spending sprees, sexual indiscretions, impulsive business decisions).

What is the difference between a Manic and a Hypomanic Episode?

Duration: a Manic episode lasts at least a week, a hypomanic episode lasts at least 4 days. However, an episode is considered to be manic if the person is hospitalized, regardless of how many days the symptoms were present.

Impairment: a Manic episode involves marked impairment in social or occupational functioning, whereas a hypomanic episode involves a noticeable change in functioning.
Psychotic features:  If psychotic features are present, an episode is considered to be manic and not hypomanic.

What is a Major Depressive Episode?

An episode of depression involves having a depressed mood or loss of pleasure, plus additional symptoms such as: changes in appetite or weight, needing more or less sleep than usual, moving faster or slower than usual, feeling tired or low in energy, feeling worthless or guilty, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, thoughts of death or suicide. Note: in adults, a depressed mood may involve feeling sad, down, empty, or hopeless, whereas children and adolescents may be more prone to feeling irritable instead of depressed.

How can Therapy help someone with Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is considered to be a lifelong condition that is typically managed with a combination of medications and psychotherapy.  In canada, psychologists do not prescribe medications, but do provide psychotherapy. Physicians, such as psychiatrists, prescribe medications. Often, clients will meet with a psychiatrist for medications, and a psychologist for therapy.

Therapy with a psychologist can help you to maintain an emotional equilibrium so that you can reach your full potential. Therapy can also help you to notice when a mood swing is likely to occur, so that you can regain balance as quickly as possible. Although psychologists do not prescribe medications, they can help you to take them regularly, as well as to suggest when a visit to the physician might be warranted. Often, individuals tend to enjoy feeling manic or hypomanic, and therefore do not view it as a problem that requires treatment. However, there tend to be costs associated the euphoric mood, such as the crushing depression that tends to follow it, or consequences of the things that one did while feeling up or irritable.  The ups and downs of Bipolar Disorder can make it hard to succeed at work, school, or relationships.  However, therapy can make a world of difference. Therapy can help you to increase your self-awareness and resilience, so that you can achieve what’s most important to you in life.

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