Bipolar disorder is a name used to identify a type of depression that is marked by both depressive and manic symptoms. Also known, though not as frequently in recent years, as manic depression, bipolar disorder has no fewer than four distinct forms, according to the diagnostic criteria listed by the National Institute of Mental Health.
It is important to understand that bipolar disorder is often accompanied by at least one co-occurring disorder. It is not unusual, for instance, for someone who suffers from either diagnosed or undiagnosed bipolar disorder of any type to also suffer from drug and alcohol abuse or dependence. Addiction disorders can be particularly dangerous because of the mania associated with bipolar disorder. An individual may feel invincible, which can result in drinking too much or ingesting more illicit drugs than intended. Other co-occurring disorders, both mental and physical in nature, often associated with bipolar disorder include:
- Attention deficit disorder
- Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
- General anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Thyroid disease
- Heart disease
- Migraine headaches
- Bipolar I Symptoms
Bipolar I disorder is generally diagnosed when an individual has manic episodes that are drastic enough to require a hospital stay. Other times, the mania may last for seven or more days but not necessarily require hospitalization. Also, in order to diagnose someone with this condition, the behavior must be out of the ordinary for their normal behavior. For instance, a person who normally drives with safety in mind and rarely, if ever, exceeds the speed limit may begin to drive recklessly as they feel invincible or exceptionally irritated by other drivers on the road. Other reckless, out-of-character behavior may include risky behaviors relating to sexual partners as well.
- Bipolar II Symptoms
In direct contrast to bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder has more instances of depressive behaviors and may not ever involve a drastic manic episode. With both disorders, there is a cycling between the highs and the lows, of course, but each one will have more instances of one or the other.
- What Does Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified Mean?
Each person is unique. Each individual comes with his or her own genetic and personal history, life experiences and current circumstances that can play into their psychological state of mind. Not every person will present with a “textbook” condition that is easily and immediately diagnosed. Because of this, the psychological community defines bipolar disorder not otherwise specified; it allows an individual to receive a diagnosis even if their behavior falls short of a strict definition in one of the other diagnoses. For instance, in order to be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, the symptoms must be present for at least seven days. What if the individual’s behavior only lasted for five days? Rather than simply say that their unusual and possibly dangerous behaviors do not meet a certain criteria, their doctor can still authorize treatment.
Cyclothymia Is the Mildest Form of Bipolar Disorder
Some instances of bipolar disorder are not as severe as others. An individual may exhibit hypomania, or mania that is just below a full-on manic episode, and they feel depressed, but not to a degree that would be described as anything other than mild.
Mood Swings Can Take Weeks or Months to Occur
When we think of mood swings, we often picture an individual who is angry one minute and elated the next. Perhaps they are deeply depressed in the morning and ready to take on the world in the afternoon? Generally speaking, however, when an individual suffers from a bipolar disorder, the cycles are less obvious. In fact, some individuals will experience a shift only a couple of times per year. For others, particularly those with severe bipolar disorder, the cycling can take place within a week or a 24-hour period. This is known as rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, which affects more women than men.
Without adequate treatment, bipolar disorders tend to worsen over time. While there is no known cure for this chronic condition, proper treatment can help an individual manage their symptoms so they can better enjoy their lives. When bipolar disorder leads to drug and alcohol addiction, however, it is imperative that both conditions are treated simultaneously in order to increase one’s chances for a healthy outcome during recovery.
If you are concerned that you or someone you love may suffer from bipolar disorder and addiction, we here at Axis can help. Our professional staff and treatment providers can create a plan specifically for you and your family with solid, evidence-based treatments blended with a host of holistic treatments to put you back on a path to health and happiness.