Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that impacts the individual suffers from various mood swings, energy levels, and interest in activities. Bipolar disorder can make everyday activities and life very difficult for the individual. Individuals that suffer from bipolar disorder can have emotional times that can occur at random in their lives. These types of mood swings are manic (mania), hypomanic and depressive. If bipolar disorder is left untreated, the disorder can worsen and become a very serious issue or even devastating by taking one’s life. Individuals that suffer from chronic migraines can suffer from the same symptoms of bipolar disorder. This can make it difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally. Also, individuals are diagnosed mostly between the ages of 15 and 25 years, however, the individual can be diagnosed anytime during his or her life (Nordqvist, 2017). Women are more likely to experience depressive symptoms as their first episode, while men are more likely to experience manic episodes (Chung Ross, 2007). Individuals that suffer from bipolar disorder can have results of lower wages, higher unemployment rates, missing work or school, higher divorce rates, hospitalization, and suicide (Leahy, 2007).
Bipolar Disorder Types
There are three identified types of bipolar disorders and another type known as a not otherwise specified type. The three types are Bipolar 1 Disorder, Bipolar 2 Disorder, Cyclothymic, and Not Otherwise Specified (NOS). Understanding the symptoms of bipolar disorder and depending on how long the symptoms last, can help identify which type of bipolar disorder the individual has. Individuals can have mood swings, with mania and then have depression at the same time, described as “highs” and “lows” and at times experience this at the same time. Also, having mood stability in between lasting months or years.
Hypomanic or mania is an experience of a “high” mood. Mania is more severe of the two. An individual that has severe mania usually experiences hallucinations and delusions, which can be mistaken for schizophrenia. Individuals that suffer from hypomania can function in social situations than individuals who suffer from mania. The individual that experiences a “high” mood causes them to be at a level that can be uncontrollable at times. For example, a “high” mood can go on spending sprees even though the individual does not have the funds. The symptoms of mania or hypomania are poor judgment, having a sense of a “weird feeling”, easily distracted or board, the individual feels unstoppable, aggressive behavior, engaging in dangerous behavior, rapid talking and racing thoughts. “Lows” are just as serious as the “highs”.
The “low” mood is depressive or known as depression. The “low” can have a devastating effect on the individual. For example, having a difficult time choosing clothing to wear for the day. Symptoms of depressive are feeling helpless, sadness, sleeping problems, anxiety, pain and physical problems, feeling everything in their life goes wrong and everything seems to be their fault, change in eating habits, weight loss or gain, fatigue and tiredness, individual does not enjoy activities or interest that brings them joy, irritation, underperforming, and thoughts of suicide. What factors contribute to someone getting bipolar disorder?
Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder
The cause of bipolar disorder has not been discovered. Contributing factors that are believed to an individual suffering from bipolar disorder are genetics, stress, or brain function and structure (“Bipolar Disorder”, 2017). If there is a family history of bipolar or depression it is most likely to be passed on. Due to how complex and diverse the illness is, it makes it very difficult to diagnose the illness correctly (Leahy, 2007).
For the bipolar disorder to be properly diagnosed the following must be completed for correct accuracy. One of the first thing the individual who thinks he or she is suffering from bipolar disorder takes the Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ). This test helps the doctor, psychologist, and/ or psychiatrist help identify the bipolar symptoms the individual is suffering from.
A complete medical history and physical exam will need to be completed to rule out any potential illnesses that can show the same symptoms of bipolar disorder (Tracy, 2017). The following types of illnesses that can contribute to bipolar symptoms HIV, brain tumor, head injury, diabetes, epilepsy, lupus, multiple sclerosis, salt imbalance, and thyroid disorders (Tracy, 2017). Only a psychiatrist or psychologist can diagnose the individual with a bipolar disorder.
The psychiatrist or psychologist will use a criterion known as a Diagnostic and Statistics Manual, fifth edition known as (DSM-5) to help diagnose the individual correctly. This manual is a list of disorders. Today this manual is controversial to some medical professionals. Also, questioning the individual’s friends, family, and others that associate with the individual to find out about his or her behavior. The doctor may request blood work to rule out any type of substance abuse, however, the substance abuse may be used because the individual uses the drugs as an escape from the “low” symptoms.
For the individual to be diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder the following symptoms must be present. The individual must have at least one manic and depression. Although, the individual in some cases may not need depression as a symptom. This depends on the severity of the manic episode. The individual’s manic episode needs to last at least seven days or be so severe that the individual becomes hospitalized (“Bipolar Disorder”, 2017).
When the individual experiences at least one hypomanic episode and one or more depressive, this is known as Bipolar 2 Disorder. The individual must experience hypomanic, which is less severe than manic. Also, the individual will experience mood swings that shift from “high” to “low” that will not reach the level of mania. Bipolar 2 Disorder individuals will experience less sleep, competitiveness, outgoing, and full of energy (Nordqvist, 2017).
Individuals are also more likely to experience with substance abuse to with the “lows”.
Cyclothymia is when the individual experiences hypomania and depression for at least two years (“Bipolar Disorder, 2017). The individual’s mood swings need to last at least half of the time and not stop for more than two months during the span of two years. Individuals that suffer from Cyclothymia will have normal mood periods that can last less than eight weeks. Cyclothymia is one of the hardest types of the three disorders to diagnose. This becomes difficult because cyclothymia has some of the same symptoms as bipolar 1 and 2 but the level of the episodes is lesser of the two.
Not Otherwise Specified disorder (NOS) is a condition when the individual experiences mood swings that are very quick and are within days of each other. The individual may not have all the related symptoms, or different episode levels to be diagnosed with a type of bipolar disorder. An individual can experience multiple episodes of hypomania but no depressive episodes. All these types of disorders and not otherwise specified have effective treatments for the individual.
Individuals that suffer from bipolar disorder can get the treatment they need. The types of effective treatment available are psychotherapy, medications, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and social support. Finding which treatment is best can change the individual’s life in little as three or four months. This is not always the case and sometimes can take longer.
Psychotherapy is a type of treatment that helps the individual reducing stress, improving self-well-being, and understanding how to identify patterns that can trigger symptoms and how to manage them better. Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy. The therapy helps change the negative thoughts and how to manage those thoughts. While talk therapy is being used, the individual may be prescribed medications to help manage the type of bipolar disorder.
Certain medications can be very helpful depending on the type of bipolar disorder. Such medications as lithium, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and antidepressants. Lithium and anticonvulsants are mood stabilizers. These medications can control mania and hypomanic episodes of “highs” and “lows” the individual experiences. Antipsychotics are used for individuals that have symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, and or mania. Sometimes this medication is paired with mood stabilizers. Individuals who suffer from depression may use this form of medication. This type of medication can help an individual who suffers from substance abuse. Antidepressants can be paired with other types of antidepressants to help the individual. Most individuals that take antidepressants will most likely take multiple medications with it. Making sure the right medication dose is prescribed to the individual, it is also important that the individual understands the side effects that associate with them.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is considered a very effective way to treat severe depression, mania, or both depression and mania together. This therapy method transmits small amounts of electrical impulses to the brain. This therapy method causes a quick seizure in the brain. ECT is again very effective but mainly used when no other treatment has helped the individual. Along with any treatment method, it is important the individual has the right social support.
One of the most important treatment is having the social support of friends, families, and people the individuals associate with on a day to day bases. This will help the individual be more comfortable getting the help that is needed to live a better life. Being supportive towards the individual that suffers from bipolar disorder, not only helps them but the people around the individual as well.
In conclusion, bipolar disorder is a mental illness that can make everyday life difficult for the individual. The individual can live a full productive life with the correct diagnoses, knowing which type of disorder the individual has, and the types of treatment available. The three types of bipolar disorders are Bipolar 1 Disorder, Bipolar 2 Disorder, Cyclothymia, and one known as Not Otherwise Specified (NOS). Taking the proper measures to get a complete diagnosis of the type of disorder the individual has by completing an MQD test, medical exam, family medical history, and blood test to rule out any other factors such as illness and or substance abuse. Once the diagnosis is complete the individual can get the proper treatment available to them from psychotherapy, medications, electroconvulsive therapy, and social support. Having the right diagnoses and treatment can really change the individual’s life to where he or she can live a much better life and those around the individual as well.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2017, January). What are bipolar disorders? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/bipolar-disorders/what-are-bipolar-disorders.
- Chung, H., Culpepper, L., De Webster, J. N., Grieco, R. L., Kaye, N. S., Lipkin, M., . . . Ross, R. (2007). Recognizing and understanding bipolar disorder. The Journal of Family Practice. 56, 5-10. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=b9573689-cbf3-4d6c-8014-3ce9e2849f24%40sessionmgr104.
- Leahy, R. L. (2007). Bipolar Disorder: Causes, Context, and Treatments. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 63(5), 417-424. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=b9573689-cbf3-4d6c-8014-3ce9e2849f24%40sessionmgr104.
- Martin, B (2016, May 17). How is bipolar disorder diagnosed? Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-is-bipolar-disorder-diagnosed/.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2017, August). Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Bipolar-Disorder.
- Nordqvist, C. (2017, December 7). What should you know about bipolar disorder. Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/37010.php.
- Parker, G., McCraw, S., & Fletcher, K. (2012). Cyclothymia. Depression and Anxiety, 29, 487-494. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=8&sid=b9573689-cbf3-4d6c-8014-3ce9e2849f24%40sessionmgr104.
- Purse, M. (2018, June 28). What is bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (NOS)? Verywell Mind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/diagnosing-bipolar-disorder-not-otherwise-specified-379952.
- Tartakovsky, M. (2016, May 17). The 4 keys to managing bipolar disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-4-keys-to-managing-bipolar-disorder/.
- Tracy, N. (2017, July 11). Bipolar diagnosis and how to diagnose bipolar disorder. Healthy Place. Retrieved from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-diagnosis/bipolar-diagnosis-and-how-to-diagnose-bipolar-disorder.