Understanding and Coping With Bipolar Disorder

Understanding and Coping With Bipolar Disorder

One of the most commonly referenced and misunderstood mental health disorders is Bipolar disorder. The highly complex mood disorder is frequently misunderstood. The term has a history of being loosely thrown around to describe someone when they have a shift in mood and is often misrepresented in movies and television series. There are different types of the disorder that are distinguished by particular symptoms. Bipolar disorders are more than “mood swings” and have the ability to disrupt the lives of those living with the illness severely. 

Treatment for bipolar disorder does not strictly revolve around medications. It can include various methods that help promote stability, whole-body health and improve relationships and daily life. Mindful Living Group sees the beneficial effects of treatment for both mind and body as a unit. Through education to help eliminate stigmas and misconceptions, therapy, healthy living, and integrating mindfulness into daily life, expertly trained therapists and counselors might be able to help you in regaining control over your life. 

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Education of what bipolar disorders are, how they affect a person and family and friends is an integral part of getting control over the illness. Many myths are commonly believed about the disorder that may hinder a person from acquiring proper support or having healthy relationships. Bipolar disorders are mainly characterized by the severity and frequency of two episodic mood shifts, manic or hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes. The average age of onset is 25 years old; however, the disorder can emerge during childhood and adolescents. 

Bipolar disorder can best be viewed as a spectrum of dysregulated moods. No two people diagnosed with bipolar disorder may experience it in the same way. Each type has shared symptoms such as depressive episodes, mixed episodes, and mania or its milder form, hypomania. The degree of severity and length of time each mood occurs in a person is a distinguishing factor in whether they have Bipolar I disorder, Bipolar II disorder, Cyclothymic (Cyclothymia), or other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorders – sometimes referred to as bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (NOS). 

Manic and hypomanic episodes – a critical difference between Bipolar I and Bipolar II – are characterized by periods of elated moods, decreased need for sleep, poor decision making, and more. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. Manic episodes experienced by people with Bipolar I have the potential to induce delusions, hallucinations, and other psychosis traits. It’s important to recognize that episodes of mania or hypomania are not necessarily pleasant and euphoric as many misconceptions illustrate them to be. The racing thoughts increase energy levels and distraction while trying to accomplish several things at once can quickly become overwhelming and induce feelings of irritability or agitation. Because the brain is running at high speed, reality can seem to be moving too slow. Impulsive behavior is commonly associated with episodes of mania, whether it’s spending outrageous amounts of money (even if the person doesn’t have it), gambling, hypersexuality, or overall elevated confidence and belief that nothing wrong can happen. 

Depressive episodes are the opposite of mania, but just as dangerous. Symptoms are similar to other forms of depression, including persistent sadness, hopelessness, changes in appetite, and sleep. If left untreated, there is the possibility of the depressive episodes worsening and leading to suicidal thoughts or attempts. 

An area that often gets overlooked is mixed episodes. Mania and depression do not have to occur separately and can at times coexist. During these mood periods, a person can experience symptoms of both moods, which are highly distressing and exhausting both physically and mentally. A person experiencing mixed episodes is likely to feel heightened energy levels while simultaneously not being able to find the motivation to do anything and feeling deep sadness. Mixed episodes, like mania and depression, are experienced differently in every person with bipolar. 

The hopeful news is bipolar disorder is treatable, and it is possible to manage the illness. 

Diagnosing and Treating Bipolar Disorder With Mindful Living Group

An estimated 4.4 percent of adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Out of those, approximately 83 percent have experienced severe symptoms that have impaired daily functioning and activities. Bipolar disorders can be disguised as other mental disorders and because of this, may take time to identify. 

Often, people do not seek help until they are in the depths of a depressive episode and may not notice when they are experiencing hypomanic episodes. Because hypomania is less severe than mania, daily functioning is less likely to be disrupted, and the joyful, high-energy mood generally causes a person to feel good. Despite feeling confident and energetic, hypomania can still lead to poor judgment and decision making, including lowered impulse control. Depressive episodes can often appear as periods of depression  – especially when mania is not reported due to the person not recognizing it. 

It is essential to seek out a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist who has experience treating people with bipolar disorder. A misdiagnosis can lead to improper treatment or medications that exacerbate an individual’s mania. Developing a healthy therapeutic relationship with your psychiatric practitioner is invaluable. The staff at Mindful Living Group offer a safe, calm, and tender environment for patients to discuss what is going on. Through dedication to helping each person who visits, therapists can uncover the root of the problems at hand and holistically treat them. 

Treatment for bipolar disorder is often associated with what is broadcasted on t.v., which can create hesitation and fear for people. In reality, there are four categories of treatment and management options for people living with bipolar disorder, psychological therapies, alternative treatments, prescription medications, and lifestyle changes. 

Psychological therapies include various forms of psychotherapy (talk therapy). Licensed and trained therapists can help determine particular triggers when moods are shifting and teach skills that help you cope with your bipolar disorder. Family or couples therapy is typically beneficial when an individual is living with bipolar. Therapists can educate family members, partners, or other loved ones about the illness and how they can help. The mental health and wellbeing of loved ones living with or helping care for someone with bipolar disorder are equally as important. Individual therapy sessions or support groups have been frequently recommended to encourage mental and physical health and provide a network of compassion and support. 

Alternative or complementary treatment methods are likely to include supplements, bodywork, or phototherapy. It is crucial to consult with your doctor about starting any supplements. They could interfere with the type of medication you are taking (if you are taking medication) or trigger manic or depressive episodes. 

Prescription medications are frequently used and have proven to significantly help people living with bipolar disorder. There are several categories of medications often used, such as anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and benzodiazepines, to name a few. Finding the proper medication, combination, and dosage can be a trying time for individuals and their loved ones, which is why it is essential to communicate with your psychiatrist how you are feeling, any changes, side effects, etc. Once the correct medication is discovered, it can provide stability in mood, emotions, and allow the individual to take back their life and enjoy it to the fullest. 

Lifestyle changes are vital to managing bipolar disorder. Changes can vary from eliminating alcohol and drug consumption to creating and sticking to a consistent daily routine. Substances such as alcohol or drugs have proven to disrupt mood stability and cause greater difficulty in managing symptoms. Alcohol notoriously disrupts the effectiveness of medications, too, and can even create toxic interactions. It is highly recommended these are avoided to reduce the risk of breakthrough shifts in mood. Researchers have found that inadequate sleep can trigger mania, or increase the cycle of shifting moods between mania and depressive episodes. 

Living With Bipolar Disorder

You are not your bipolar disorder diagnosis. You are allowed to be happy and excited over events in life without your emotions being linked to mania. You can feel sad and down without it being a depressive episode. 

A common misunderstanding many people have about the disorder is the belief that symptoms are felt 24/7; someone who has bipolar disorder must always be in either a manic, depressive or mixed state of mind. The truth is that symptoms are not always felt, and there are periods that a person feels “normal.” Through education and making an effort to understand the illness, the stigma and misconceptions can be eliminated. In doing this, people who are struggling might be able to seek out help and support without the fear of being shunned, mocked, or not taken seriously. 

Because bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, many view life as something to “just get through,” and it is easy to focus on the negatives – especially when experiencing a depressive episode. The diagnosis does not mean you are given a one-way path to live life. Instead, embracing the positives that the disorder can contribute might improve the lives of many who have bipolar disorder. You may be thinking, “positives – to bipolar disorder? That can’t be right.” While it is essential to recognize the adverse effects bipolar has on a person’s life, some traits should not be overlooked – taking caution, so they are not romanticized and merged into a negative impact. 

Resilience is at the top of the list, no doubt. Facing daily activities, routines, and demands while managing the disorder is no simple task. Often exhausting, both mentally and physically, the ability to keep pushing forward is admirable. This resilience can often lead to burnout and trigger a shift in mood, which is why it is important for someone with bipolar disorder to be self-aware and keep consistent with routines that offer stability and promote overall physical and mental health. 

Possessing a greater sense of empathy may emerge as you take control over your disorder. Many people who have bipolar disorder, and many other mental health disorders, are less likely to create a judgment on others during their struggles. Their empathy allows them to help others and develop deeper, more fulfilling relationships. 

Advocating for the disorder and being a place of trust for others who also have bipolar disorder is empowering, healing, and allows you to be part of a community. Being able to relate to others and share knowledge may provide a deeper insight into yourself. 

Finding Treatment and Support

Taking the first steps to treat and manage bipolar disorder is courageous. Achieving a harmonious life that is productive, happy, full of love, and stable is possible. The journey there may be difficult, but Mindful Living Group is here to support you and help you achieve your goals. Education and individualized treatment plans rooted in compassion offer a safe and trustworthy place to face and overcome your struggles.

Contact Mindful Living Group today with any questions and to schedule your appointment.