Do you feel energetic and happy for weeks at a time, then plunge into periods of intense sadness? Do your mood swings interfere with your sleep or your ability to go to work?
You may be suffering from bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness that affects about 6 million Americans.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with bipolar disorder can have manic episodes, depressed episodes or mixed episodes that have both manic and depressive features. Episodes can last for one or two weeks or longer. Symptoms are present for most of the day.
During manic phases, sufferers feel “up” or “high.” They may talk rapidly about a lot of different things, have racing thoughts, think they can accomplish many tasks at once or engage in risky behaviors, such as gambling or having reckless sex.
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During depressive episodes, they feel sad, sleep too much or too little and have trouble concentrating. They may worry or feel empty, eat too much or not enough and become forgetful. They think about death and may become suicidal.
Anyone can develop bipolar disorder. It usually begins in the teen years or early adulthood; the average age of onset is 25 years old. Children can also be diagnosed with the disorder. Bipolar disorder usually lasts a lifetime.
Scientists aren’t sure what causes the disorder. But genetics plays a key role. A child with one parent diagnosed with bipolar disorder has a 23 percent chance of developing the disease. A child with two parents who are bipolar has a 66 percent chance of developing it.
Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose and many patients don’t receive the care they need.
An online study appearing in the Feb. 1, 2017, issue of Psychiatric Services found that most individuals with bipolar disorder received no psychiatric treatment in the past 12 months and that many seek treatment in primary care. Statistics show that only 25 percent of patients receive a correct diagnosis within three years of the onset of symptoms.
Bipolar disorder is frequently accompanied by other mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders and substance abuse, which further complicate diagnosis.
For more information about bipolar disorder, visit www.nimh.nih.gov. To find mental health services in your area, visit https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov. If you need to speak with someone because you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.
Get help for bipolar disorder
▪ Be evaluated for medication. It may take several tries before you and your doctor find the right medication and the correct dose that works best for you. Once you find the right prescription, it’s important to take the medication regularly.
▪ Get into psychotherapy. Talk therapy can provide support, education and guidance for patients and their families.
▪ Get adequate sleep. Erratic sleep makes symptoms worse. Develop an evening routine. Go to bed at the same time every night. Discuss sleep problems with your doctor; you may need to adjust your medication or take an additional sleep aid.
▪ Keep a life chart. Note daily mood symptoms, sleep patterns and life events to understand and treat your disease effectively.