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Teen and Parent Wellbeing

Bipolar Disorder

By Vihaan Parekh

About the Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that causes severe changes in energy, mood, and concentration within a relatively short period of time.

There are three main types of bipolar disorder. All three types of bipolar disorder cause severe changes in mood and energy. There are different types of mood changes that one can go through. There are manic episodes that cause a person to show extremely irritated, elated, and restless behavior (there are less severe manic episodes that are classified as hypomanic episodes). On the contrary, there are depressive episodes that cause people to appear sad, suicidal, energy-ridden, and hopeless.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are three types of Bipolar disorder; Cyclothymic Disorder, Bipolar I Disorder, and Bipolar II Disorder. 

Cyclothymic Disorder is a rare type of Bipolar disorder whose symptoms are not as severe as those with Bipolar I or II Disorder. If you have this disorder you would experience noticeable mood shifts that go up and down from your normal moods. For some time, you may feel amazing, happy, and motivated, but this changes when you experience a low period which makes you feel sad and depressed. Besides these temporary highs and lows, you may feel completely fine. Although the highs and lows of this disease are less extreme than their bipolar disorder counterparts, it is still imperative to seek help managing these symptoms because they increase your risk of bipolar I and II disorder.

Bipolar I Disorder causes mood swings that include a mixture of emotional highs (mania) and emotional lows (depression). Episodes of having symptoms of depression and mania at the same time are also possible. When your mood shifts to depression you may feel sad and lose pleasure in most of your activities. When your mood shifts to mania you may feel full of energy and irritable. These varying mood swings can affect sleep, energy, and the ability to think clearly.

Bipolar II Disorder causes depressive and hypomanic episodes. It does not cause the full-blown manic episodes that Bipolar I Disorder causes.

Signs and Symptoms

People with bipolar disorder experience distinct periods of emotional changes regarded as mood episodes. Mood episodes are prolonged mood swings where the symptoms last every day for most of the day. These mood episodes may also last for longer amounts of time such as days or weeks.

These symptoms vary from person to person and are not the same with everyone. A person may still have bipolar disorder even if their symptoms are less extreme than those listed above. Some people with bipolar II disorder experience hypomania, which is a less severe form of mania. During a hypomanic episode, a person may feel good, happy, and productive. Even though they may not be able to feel anything irregular, their family and friends may notice changes in their behavior. Without the required treatment, hypomania could turn into severe mania or depression. 

Diagnosis

Getting a proper diagnosis and good treatment can help people with bipolar disorder have very healthy, active, and fulfilling lives. The first step to getting diagnosed is to talk with a doctor or a licensed health provider. Your doctor might refer you to a psychiatrist, who will help you to open up about your thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns. You may be asked to complete a self-evaluation about your symptoms and your family members and friends might be asked to provide information about your symptoms.

A person is diagnosed with Bipolar disorder based on their symptoms, experiences, lifetime history, and family history. Bipolar disorder is diagnosed during late adolescence and early adulthood. Bipolar symptoms can appear in children, although this is very rare. Bipolar disorder can also appear during pregnancy or childbirth. Even though the symptoms of Bipolar disorder will vary over time, it still requires lifelong monitoring and treatment. Following a structured treatment plan can lead to a much longer and better life.

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