Knowing when you need therapy for bipolar disorder may not be easy. A person with bipolar disorder is likely to experience instances of highs and lows; they may feel depressed about life one day, and a few days later, feel excited about the future. We all experience some of these symptoms to a degree, though. It’s normal to have a wide range of emotions.
So, how do you know if what you feel is normal or whether it requires treatment? Fortunately, research can help.
Types of Bipolar Disorders
Most of the time, bipolar disorder is recognized for its mania, hypomania and dips into depression. A key factor to look for in your own symptoms is whether these mood and behavior changes occur suddenly and unpredictably.
Before exploring this, consider what bipolar includes:
- Mania is a term used to describe emotional highs — times when you feel unbelievably good.
- Hypomania is much the same, but less extreme than mania.
- Depression occurs when a person feels sad, hopeless and loses interest in daily activities.
Bipolar I Disorder: People with this diagnosis have at least one manic episode in which they experienced a hypomanic or major depressive episode before or after it. Often, a break from reality, called psychosis, occurs.
Bipolar II Disorder: In this condition, people have at least one major instance of depression and at least one episode of hypomania but haven’t experienced mania. Note that this condition is not a milder or less severe form of bipolar I disorder. The two are separate conditions.
Cyclothymic Disorder: Those who have this particular form have had numerous episodes of hypomania and depression over a period of at least two years. Most of these people experience depression that’s not as severe as major depression.
There are other types of bipolar disorder as well. Medical conditions such as Cushing’s disease or multiple sclerosis may trigger bipolar symptoms.
Also, the use of drugs or alcohol, especially when a person has a genetic predisposition to this condition, creates an increased risk of bipolar symptoms. Sometimes, just having a stroke can trigger the onset of bipolar disorder.
Can You Self-Treat Bipolar Disorder?
Having symptoms of bipolar disorder and not getting help or trying to use self-help methods puts a person at a high risk of complications. This may include a break from reality.
During depressive episodes, it’s not uncommon for people to use alcohol or drugs as a way to calm feelings and hide emotions. It can lead to insomnia or sleeping all of the time, impacting quality of life.
While periods of mania may seem like a good thing, they typically are not. A person may have the inability to focus on work or school. They may not sleep much at all.
This increases the risk of making reckless decisions or struggling to maintain relationships. It can also lead to complications such as the desire to use drugs to help to calm the mind and body.
Overall, the complications that arise from not getting help for bipolar may include:
- A higher risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts
- Drug and alcohol use
- Damaged to relationships
- Financial problems
- Inability to maintain employment
It’s not uncommon for the symptoms of bipolar to mask underlying, co-occurring conditions. When you learn how to get diagnosed for bipolar by a professional, that person will always look for the presence of other conditions that could be impacting your symptoms. These may include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
- Substance use disorder
- Alcohol use disorder
- Heart disease
- Thyroid disease
- Obesity-related causes
Should You Get Diagnosed?
You can learn how to seek help for bipolar disorder by turning first to your family physician. They can provide a full physical exam and do blood work to rule out other physical causes for your symptoms. They can also offer some basic insight into your mental health.
However, the best help for bipolar comes from a mental health professional. They can conduct a series of tests to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and complications. This includes a complete psychiatric assessment.
During this process, you answer some key questions about your feelings and your behavior patterns. You also discuss your thoughts. Sometimes, family members are asked about your behaviors and emotions, all with the goal of understanding what you think, why you think that and what it may mean to your health.
Mood charting is a common method of diagnosing bipolar disorder. During this step, you create a journal to record your mood and your thoughts throughout the day. You also make notes about your other symptoms and sleep patterns.
Fears of Being Diagnosed
Getting help for bipolar disorder is a very positive thing. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that 2.8% of Americans had bipolar disorder in the previous year (data was collected in 2017). About 4.4% of adults experience bipolar disorder at some point during their lifetime.
Many people worry about what being diagnosed would mean. First, remember that this is your private information, and you don’t need to share it with anyone.
You may be worried about the stigma of having a mental illness. However, remember that most people in your life likely know something isn’t okay if you’re experiencing such dramatic highs and lows.
As noted, there are many dangers of self-treating, including the increased likelihood that you’ll turn to drugs or alcohol to manage the condition. Most people with bipolar disorder are unable to handle it on their own. As a result, they struggle through daily life just trying to hide feelings or not upset friends, family or employers with emotions they can’t control.
A Better Life Is Possible
“Do I need bipolar medication?” “Can you treat bipolar disorder at all, or am I stuck with it?” These are very common questions once people realize they have this condition. Here’s what you need to know.
Treatment: Treatment for bipolar disorder can be very effective. Many people need medication, but some do not. In all cases, treatment can help you to understand what’s happening and learn how to control it.
Quality of Life: Your quality of life improves when you seek treatment. Having an understanding of what your needs are can help you to meet them better, reducing the risk of severe mental breakdowns.
Co-Occurring Disease Treatment: It’s also important to receive treatment for co-occurring disorders so that your physical and mental health are being treated at the same time.
By seeking the help of a medical professional, you can begin to see improvement in your life and your future. The type of treatment that’s right for you depends on what your therapist determines, but without this care, you won’t see much improvement. The condition can worsen, and episodes can become more severe, without care.
FHE Health Offers Solutions for You
You don’t have to live with the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Contact FHE Health now to learn more about the comprehensive treatment options we can offer to you. Call our compassionate counselors at 833-596-3502.