What Does My Bipolar Diagnosis Mean?

What Does My Bipolar Diagnosis Mean?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes bipolar as a brain disorder that produces abnormal shifts in mood, energy and activity levels. The term bipolar reflects the way in which these episodes can swing between opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. There are three primary types of bipolar episodes, which include the following:

  • Depressive episodes expressed as extreme states of sadness, despair and apathy
  • Manic episodes in which emotional highs produce overconfidence and irritability
  • Mixed states in which manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time

The Depression and Bipolar Support Appliance (DBSA) estimates that 5.7 million adults in the US experience bipolar symptoms each year. Genetic vulnerability plays a major role in developing the disorder and about half of all cases start before the age of 25. The symptoms typically grow worse if the disorder is undiagnosed or untreated but professional treatment can help patients minimize the symptoms and avoid related risks.

The Effects of Bipolar Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) classifies the different types of bipolar according to the length, severity, frequency and specific symptoms of the episodes. For example, cyclothymia is a mild form of the disorder, while rapid-cycling bipolar involves four or more episodes within a single year. In any case, untreated bipolar disorder can impact a person in several ways, including the following:

  • Manic phases can leave people easily distracted, impulsive and jumpy with unrealistic confidence in personal abilities
  • Manic symptoms can negatively affect work performance and social interactions and motivate high-risk behaviors like impulsive business transactions
  • Depressive phases can leave people feeling lethargic and hopeless with a lack of interest in activities that previously brought joy
  • Depressive symptoms can lead to self-imposed social isolation and unhealthy changes in eating, sleeping and other habits

Symptoms of the disorder can leave friends, loved ones and work associates baffled as the person swings between overconfidence and despair. Furthermore, bipolar has been connected with substance abuse in several studies, including the following:

  • The Bipolar Disorders journal in 2001 suggested that nearly 60% of people with the disorder have engaged in substance abuse
  • The Schizophrenia Bulletin in 2007 stated there is a particularly high association between bipolar disorder and addiction
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) argued in 2011 that mental health disorders and addiction likely share overlapping triggers and genetic vulnerabilities

NIMH argues that untreated bipolar disorder can motivate substance abuse but addictive behavior can also exploit mental health vulnerabilities. Co-occurring addiction also creates diagnostic problems in differentiating between bipolar and substance abuse symptoms.

Types of Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Bipolar disorder cannot be cured at this time but proper treatment can help people better control and manage the mood swings and symptoms. Treatment can involve several potential options, including the following:

  • Mood-stabilizing medication such as lithium, antidepressants and anticonvulsants
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that addresses harmful and negative thought patterns
  • Educational therapies to learn about the disorder, episode triggers and warning signs
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy for healthier relationships and daily routines
  • Family counseling to empower loved ones with coping and problem-solving strategies

Therapies can also be integrated to treat co-occurring substance use disorders. Addiction-specific services may include supervised detoxification, motivational interviewing and other treatments.

Addiction and Mental Health Help

Our admissions coordinators can answer questions, provide information and make recommendations 24 hours a day for any mental health or addiction-related concerns. Many health insurance plans cover treatment services, and we can also look up policies and explain their benefits. If you need assistance, please call our toll-free helpline now.