We think of someone as being “bipolar” in quite casually these days; usually we’re describing someone who is moody. Be careful with that label: true bipolar symptoms are like no moodiness you’ve ever seen. Bipolar Disorder is actually two separate disorders:
Bipolar I (classic): one or more manic or mixed episodes of mood; sometimes includes depressive episodes.
Bipolar 2 (rapid cycling): at least one hypo-manic episode and one major depressive episode. Depressive episodes are usually more frequent and intense.
Bipolar I, which is classic bipolar and a more serious diagnosis is more characterized by its manic episodes and does not even always include depressive episodes. A true manic episode has three of the following:
- Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
- Decreased need for sleep (feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
- More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
- Flight of ideas or experience that thoughts are racing
- Distractibility (attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
- Increase in goal-directed activity (at work, at school, or sexually)
- Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)
While rapid-cycling bipolar (Bipolar 2)’s hypo-manic episodes can look simply like a high-functioning person, the depression in this disorder is what usually brings a client in for treatment.
How It’s Treated: Classic bipolar in treatment has some experimentation at first followed by hopefully a steep rise in improvement. Bipolar disorder is one of those diagnoses that therapists very grateful for the medication options available. Clients almost always require medication. There’s usually a mood stabilizer, as well as two other medications to help frame the high and low. When properly medicated, a person with Bipolar disorder feels relief and usually sees their medication as an important part of treatment.
Therapy is essential to help control behavior that results from bipolar disorder. A trusted therapist is crucial to maintaining a stable level of functioning. A client must also have his medication monitored regularly.