Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder, often referred to as Manic-depressive Disorder, is a brain disorder that leads to definitive shifts in energy levels and mood and interferes with the capacity to perform day-to-day functions and fulfill one’s life.

While the manic periods might invite lots of activity and a seemingly energetic, happy person, these periods are following by a devastating decline in energy, interest in life, and feelings of despair and hopelessness, all of which can impair one’s ability to experience life in a healthy, consistent way.

Three Kinds of Bipolar Disorders

There are four kinds of Bipolar Disorder, each involve identifiable swings in mood, energy levels, and degree of engagement. These varying moods range from periods of significant “up-ness,” seeming elation, and highly charged behavior (known as manic episodes) to very despondent, “down,” or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe "up" manic periods are referred to as hypomanic episodes.

Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar I is defined by manic episodes that last approximately seven days or are characterized by manic symptoms that are so extreme that the individual requires immediate hospitalization. Frequently, depressive episodes take place as well, oftentimes lasting at least two or so weeks. Depressive episodes with mixed features (depression and manic symptoms simultaneously) are possible as well.

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II is defined by a sequence of depressive and hypomanic episodes; however, they do not express a full-scale manic episode, as described above.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia) is defined by several bursts of hypomanic symptoms as well several cycles of depressive symptoms, lasting two years or so (only one year for a child or adolescent's diagnosis). That said, these symptoms do not meet diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic nor depressive episodes.

Signs and Symptoms

Individuals suffering bipolar disorder express periods of extraordinarily intense emotions, alterations to sleep patterns and activity levels, and can oftentimes exhibit abnormal behaviors. These definitive sequences are called “mood episodes.” Mood episodes are noticeably different from the moods and behaviors typical of the individual. Extreme changes in energy levels, activity levels, and sleep interferences go along with mood episodes.

Manic Episodes often include:
  • Feeling super “up,” “high,” elated
  • Have a ton of energy
  • Display an increase in activity
  • Feel “jumpy” or wired
  • Struggling to sleep
  • Speaking rapidly and on a multitude of subjects
  • Agitation, irritability, heightened sensitivity
  • A mind that seems to spin out of control
  • Attempts to unsuccessfully multi-task
  • High-risk behaviors
Depressive Episodes often include:
  • Sluggish energy level
  • Decreased activity levels
  • Sleeping either too much or too little
  • Feeling nothing is enjoyable
  • Anxiety and worry
  • Inability to focus
  • Forgetfulness
  • Changes to eating patterns
  • Entertaining thoughts of suicide

A mixed-feature episode is one that includes both manic and depressive symptoms. People experiencing a mixed-feature episode may express a feeling of sadness, emptiness and hopelessness while at the same time appear extremely energized.

Bipolar Disorder can be expressed despite mood swings that are less extreme. Some individuals with bipolar disorder express hypomania, a less severe type of mania. During a hypomanic episode, an individual may feel good, be productive, and function pretty well. The individual may not suspect anything is wrong, but, those close in may recognize the mood variations and/or changes in activity levels and suspect bipolar disorder. Without adequate treatment, individuals with hypomania may develop severe mania or depression.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The goal of treatment is mood stability. First, we offer an assessment since most clients present with multiple diagnoses and are different from one another, and they require individualized intervention. With the wide variety of medications such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, it can be a complex task to determine the targeted symptoms and optimal medication regiment. Also, the side-effects need to be considered as well as minimizing and avoiding addictive substances. It is it not unusual for several diagnoses to be present, such as Attention-deficit disorder, Post-traumatic Stress, Anxiety/Obsessions or Depersonalization. The importance of medication being taken consistently is emphasized.

Clients are taught to monitor their mood daily, seek support from family members, particularly those taking medication. They are taught Buddhist principles to better monitor irritability, restlessness, lack of consistent sleep, unusual eating patterns, difficulty in interpersonal relationships, expressions of anger, and the identification of external stress. They learn to quiet their mind and be less restless and irritable, as well as learn to focus their attention.

In many cases, adequate psychotherapy can be as useful as optimal pharmacology. At Harmony Place Monterey, we help each individual find optimal balance in order to both control as well as maintain wellness and daily function.

Clients are assigned an individualized therapist, specializing in Bipolar Disorder. Family participation is often useful. Our clients are taught how to recognize warning signs and can meet other clients with similar histories in group session, if desired. Families are taught better ways of communicating, especially those difficult or irritable issues. The goal is to provide optimal stability and minimize the stigma of the diagnosis.

Issues Suffered by Bipolar Clients May Include:

  • Medication Management
  • Ineffective Medication
  • Need for increased activation when feeling depressed
  • Recognizing signals of hypomania
  • Recognizing signs of irritability and tools for impulse-control
  • Difficulty in interactions with others

Confidential Consultation

Please contact Harmony Place Monterey for a confidential consultation.  We welcome your questions.  Let our program help you take the necessary steps to help you or your partner, family member or friend, recover from bipolar disorder.

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