What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in:
- Activity levels
- The ability to carry out day-to-day tasks
Moderate to high-quality evidence suggests the lifetime worldwide prevalence of bipolar disorder is around 1%, and the one-year prevalence is around 0.5%. Rates were higher for bipolar I disorder than for bipolar II disorder.
People with bipolar disorder may swing from feeling very happy to feeling very sad, often within the same day.
The average age of onset is about 25, but it can occur in the teens, or more uncommonly, in childhood. The condition affects men and women equally, with about 2.8% of the U.S. population diagnosed with bipolar disorder and nearly 83% of cases classified as severe.
These “mood swings” are more severe than the day-to-day ups and downs most people experience. Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression because people with bipolar disorder may have periods of manic episodes.
The Causes of Developing Bipolar Disorder
The cause of the bipolar disorder is unknown. Scientists have not yet discovered a single cause of the bipolar disorder. Currently, they believe several factors may contribute, including:
- Genetics. The chances of developing bipolar disorder are increased if a child’s parents or siblings have the disorder. But the role of genetics is not absolute: A child from a family with a history of bipolar disorder may never develop the disorder. Studies of identical twins have found that, even if one twin develops the disorder, the other may not.
- Stress. A stressful event such as a death in the family, an illness, a difficult relationship, divorce, or financial problems can trigger a manic or depressive episode. Thus, a person’s handling of stress may also play a role in the development of the illness.
- Brain structure and function. Brain scans cannot diagnose bipolar disorder, yet researchers have identified subtle differences in the average size or activation of some brain structures in people with bipolar disorder.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can include:
- Manic episodes (abnormally high or irritable moods)
- Depressive episodes (feelings of hopelessness and sadness)
- Mixed episodes (a combination of both manic and depressive symptoms)
Bipolar disorder can also be characterized by its severity. There are three levels of bipolar disorder, which include:
- Bipolar I disorder
- Bipolar II disorder
- Cyclothymic disorder
How Does Bipolar Disorder Affect People?
Bipolar disorder can have a profound effect on a person’s brain, making it difficult to think clearly and make good decisions. It can also lead to problems with work, school, and personal relationships. The symptoms of bipolar disorder can be very disruptive and may even lead to suicide.
In fact, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 in the U.S. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
21% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2020 (52.9 million people). This represents 1 in 5 adults. 5.6% of U.S. adults experienced serious mental illness in 2020 (14.2 million people). This represents 1 in 20 adults.
46.2% of U.S. adults with mental illness received treatment in 2020. 64.5% of U.S. adults with serious mental illness received treatment in 2020. The average delay between the onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years.
11% of U.S. adults with mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2020. 11.3% of U.S. adults with serious mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2020.
The Risk Factors for Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse
The risk factors for bipolar disorder and substance abuse are similar. They include:
- Family history of bipolar disorder or substance abuse
- Early onset of bipolar disorder
- History of trauma or abuse
- History of other mental health disorders
- Lack of social support
- Poor coping skills
The Long-Term Effects of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder can be very disruptive to a person’s life, and it can also take a toll on the brain. Studies have shown that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to experience cognitive problems, including:
- Difficulty with memory
- Executive function
- Processing speed
In addition, people with bipolar disorder are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Fortunately, treatment for bipolar disorder can help to minimize the long-term effects on the brain.
The Myths and Stigmas of Bipolar Disorder
In addition, there is a great deal of misinformation about bipolar disorder, which can make it difficult for people to seek treatment. Some common myths about bipolar disorder include the belief that it is a choice or that it can be cured by willpower alone.
These misconceptions can lead to feelings of shame and isolation, which can make it even harder for people to seek treatment. The good news is that treatment for bipolar disorder is available and effective. With the right treatment plan for bipolar disorder, people can lead happy and healthy lives.
How Does Bipolar Disorder Affect Men and Women Differently?
While bipolar disorder can affect both men and women, there are some important ways in which the condition manifests differently in each gender. For instance, women with bipolar disorder are more likely to experience anxiety and depression as part of their condition.
They may also have more difficulty coping with stress and are more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide. Men with bipolar disorder, on the other hand, are more likely to experience periods of anger and irritability.
They may also engage in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse or gambling. As a result, it is important that treatment plans for bipolar disorder be tailored to the specific needs of each gender. By taking these differences into account, doctors and therapists can create treatment plans that are much more likely to be effective.
What are the Treatments for Bipolar Disorder?
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for bipolar disorder, but there are many effective options. Treatment plans may include medication, therapy, and self-care.
- Medication: Medication is often used to stabilize mood swings and help relieve symptoms of bipolar disorder. Commonly prescribed medications include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants.
- Therapy: Therapy can be an important part of treatment for bipolar disorder. It can provide support, education, and coping strategies. Common types of therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), family-focused therapy, and interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT).
- Self-care: There are a number of things you can do to help manage bipolar disorder and improve your overall wellbeing. These include getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding stress.
If you or someone you know is struggling with bipolar disorder, there are many resources available to help. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers information and support for people with bipolar disorder and their loved ones. You can also find helpful resources through the:
- American Psychiatric Association (APA)
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
The Different Types of Episodes that People with Bipolar Disorder Experience
The different types of episodes include:
- Depressive episodes
- Manic episodes
- Mixed episodes
- Hypomanic episodes
What Forms of Therapy are Most Effective to Treat Bipolar Disorder?
There are different types of therapy that can be effective in treating bipolar disorder. Some examples include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can help a person to identify and change negative thinking patterns.
- Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT): IPSRT helps to stabilize a person’s sleeping patterns, which can be helpful in managing bipolar disorder.
- Family-focused therapy: This type of therapy can help to improve communication and problem-solving skills within the family.
Why Bipolar Disorder Often Co-occurs with Substance Abuse
Bipolar disorder often co-occurs with other mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and substance use disorders.
In fact, bipolar disorder is one of the most common mental health disorders to co-occur with drug addiction. 32.1% of U.S. adults with mental illness also experienced a substance use disorder in 2020 (17 million individuals).
There are a number of reasons why bipolar disorder and addiction often go hand-in-hand. People with bipolar disorder may self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to try to relieve their symptoms. Additionally, bipolar disorder can make people more impulsive and more likely to take risks. This can lead to risky behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol.
Bipolar disorder is also associated with changes in brain function. These changes can make people with bipolar disorder more vulnerable to developing an addiction.
If you have bipolar disorder and a substance use disorder, you’ll need treatment for both conditions. Treating only one disorder is likely to make the other worse. A treatment plan for bipolar disorder should include:
- Medications to stabilize mood swings and treat bipolar symptoms
- Psychotherapy to help identify triggers for bipolar episodes and manage stress
- Self-care strategies, such as getting regular exercise and sleep, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding drugs and alcohol
- Support from family and friends
- Participation in a support group for people with bipolar disorder
Treatment for bipolar disorder often requires lifelong treatment, even when symptoms are under control. Relapse is common, so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of a bipolar episode. These may include:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Loss of interest in activities that used to bring pleasure
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue or low energy
- A feeling of hopelessness or despair
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Intense irritability or anger
If you have bipolar disorder and experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your doctor or mental health professional right away. Early treatment can help prevent bipolar episodes from getting worse.
Medications Used to Treat Bipolar Disorder
The medications used to treat bipolar disorder can be divided into several categories.
Mood stabilizers are the cornerstone of bipolar disorder treatment. Lithium (Lithobid) is the most well-known mood stabilizer.
It has been used to treat bipolar disorder for more than 50 years.
Anticonvulsants are a newer type of mood stabilizer. They were originally developed to treat seizures but are also effective in treating bipolar disorder.
These include drugs such as:
- divalproex sodium (Depakote)
- carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro, Carbatrol)
- lamotrigine (Lamictal)
- oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)
- topiramate (Topamax)
Atypical antipsychotics are also sometimes used to treat bipolar disorder, especially when mood stabilizers alone are not effective.
These are examples of atypical antipsychotics:
- aripiprazole (Abilify)
- olanzapine (Zyprexa)
- quetiapine (Seroquel)
- risperidone (Risperdal)
- ziprasidone (Geodon)
Benzodiazepines are a type of tranquilizer that can be used for short-term relief of bipolar disorder symptoms such as anxiety or insomnia. These drugs include:
- alprazolam (Xanax)
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
- diazepam (Valium)
How to Support Someone Struggling with Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse
Supporting someone with bipolar disorder and substance abuse can be difficult. Here are some tips:
- Educate yourself about bipolar disorder.
- Be patient and understanding.
- Encourage the person to seek professional help.
- Help them develop a support system of family and friends.
- Help them find healthy coping mechanisms.
- Avoid enabling behaviors
What to Say to Someone Who is Having a Bipolar Episode?
When a person is in the middle of a bipolar episode, they may not be able to think clearly or make decisions. It is important to be supportive and patient. Here are some things you can say:
– “I’m here for you.”
– “I love you.”
– “It’s going to be okay.”
– “You’re not alone.”
– “I believe in you.”
What Not to Say to Someone with Bipolar Disorder?
There are some things that you should avoid saying to someone with bipolar disorder, as they may be triggering or hurtful. Here are some examples:
– “You’re just lazy/attention seeking/crazy.”
– “You’re overreacting.”
-“Just snap out of it.”
What are Some Other Ways to Manage Bipolar Disorder?
In addition to medication and therapy, there are other things that can be helpful in managing bipolar disorder. These include:
- Getting regular exercise
- Eating a healthy diet
- Practicing stress-relief techniques such as yoga or meditation
- Getting enough sleep
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol
Evolve From Your Mental Illness at Tulua Health
Mental illness is a complex and often misunderstood topic. When it comes to treatment, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why Tulua Health is such an important resource for those struggling with mental illness.
At Tulua, we take a customized approach to treatment, developing a plan that is tailored to each individual’s needs. Our treatment plans are based on the latest research and are designed to help our patients achieve long-term stability and wellness.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, we encourage you to reach out to us. We are here to help and can provide the support and resources you need to heal.