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Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness, is a complex and challenging mental health condition characterized by significant mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). These aren't the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through; the mood swings in bipolar disorder are severe, and they can affect sleep, energy levels, behavior, judgment, and the ability to think clearly. Episodes of mood swings may occur rarely or multiple times a year. While most people will experience some emotional symptoms between episodes, some may not experience any.


There are several types of bipolar disorder, including Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymic Disorder. Bipolar I is defined by manic episodes lasting at least 7 days or by manic symptoms that are so severe that immediate hospital care is needed, usually followed by depressive episodes lasting at least 2 weeks. Bipolar II is characterized by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes that are typical of Bipolar I. Cyclothymia involves periods of hypomanic symptoms as well as periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents); however, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.


The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but a combination of genetics, environment, and altered brain structure and chemistry may play roles. Risk factors include a family history of bipolar disorder or other psychological disorders, high-stress levels, traumatic experiences, and substance abuse.


The impact of bipolar disorder on a person's life can be profound, affecting their ability to maintain relationships, perform at school or work, and carry out daily tasks. The depressive episodes can be particularly dangerous, leading to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in managing the symptoms, reducing the frequency and severity of the episodes, and improving the quality of life for those living with bipolar disorder.


Despite the challenges, many people with bipolar disorder lead full and productive lives. Treatment enables them to manage their condition, and support from family, friends, and mental health professionals plays a critical role in their success. Public awareness and understanding of bipolar disorder have improved, but continued efforts are needed to reduce stigma and provide resources for those affected and their families.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, but it is manageable with a treatment plan that typically includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Medications may include mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications, and, occasionally, antidepressants. Psychotherapy options can include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoeducation, and a newer treatment, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT), which focuses on stabilizing daily rhythms such as sleeping, eating, and exercising. At Best Psychological Services we focus on a modern form of CBT for bipolar disorder that was developed in the UK. This form of CBT is particularly effective for treating active mood episodes in bipolar disorder and preventing relapse. Contact us if you would like to learn more about this approach.

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