Bipolar Disorders at Grace Health Services in Stafford, Ruther Glen, VA and Washington, DC.
At Grace Health Services LLC we believe in a comprehensive understanding and care approach for Bipolar and related disorders. Dive deep into the heart of bipolar spectrum, unveil its layers, and discover how, together, we can journey towards holistic wellness.
Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).
When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts to mania or hypomania (less extreme than mania), you may feel euphoric, full of energy or unusually irritable. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior and the ability to think clearly.
Episodes of mood swings may occur rarely or multiple times a year. While most people will experience some emotional symptoms between episodes, some may not experience any.
Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder is treated with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy).
Understanding Bipolar Disorder
There are several types:
A diagnosis where an individual has had at least one manic episode. This might be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes, but the hallmark remains the manic episode.
Characterized by a pattern of depressive episodes interchanged with hypomanic episodes. It lacks the full-blown manic episodes that are signature to Bipolar I.
During these episodes, individuals might experience intense emotional states:
A state of heightened emotion, mania is more than just feeling good. It's a hyperactive phase where individuals may feel an intense surge of energy, overconfidence, or even irritability. This phase is so overpowering that it can interfere with one's daily activities, sometimes leading to risky behaviors or decisions. Episodes typically last a week or more.
Hypomania, often seen as the lesser intense sibling of mania, carries many of the same characteristics but to a lesser degree. Though it might sound manageable or even beneficial to some, it's not without its challenges. Lasting around four days, those in a hypomanic state may feel good and be highly productive, but to those around them, changes in behavior are often evident. It's crucial to note that this phase doesn't escalate to the full-blown mania or psychotic episodes, but it can precede or follow a major depressive episode.
In stark contrast to the highs, the depressive phase engulfs one in a cloud of sadness, hopelessness, or a stark lack of interest in most activities. This isn't a mere day of feeling blue; it’s a persistent shadow that lingers, affecting one's ability to function for weeks at a time.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
The manifestation of bipolar disorder varies among individuals, but common indicators during episodes include:
Mania and hypomania are two distinct types of episodes, but they have the same symptoms. Mania is more severe than hypomania and causes more noticeable problems at work, school and social activities, as well as relationship difficulties. Mania may also trigger a break from reality (psychosis) and require hospitalization.
Decreased Sleep: Not just reduced hours, but a diminished need for sleep. An individual might feel extremely energized even after just a couple of hours of rest.
Elevated Self-Esteem: This can escalate to a level of grandiosity, where one might feel invincible or possess special powers or abilities.
Rapid Speech or Racing Thoughts: A whirlwind of ideas or thoughts, making it hard to focus on just one. Conversations might jump erratically between topics.
Increased Distractibility: Easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant stimuli, which might lead to unfinished tasks.
Engaging in Risky Behaviors: This includes extravagant shopping sprees, reckless driving, making impulsive decisions, or having unsafe sex.
Overactivity: Increased energy leading to hyperactivity, trying to take on multiple tasks at once, or pursuing grand and unrealistic projects.
A major depressive episode includes symptoms that are severe enough to cause noticeable difficulty in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships. An episode includes five or more of these symptoms:
Prolonged Sadness or Despair: A constant feeling of hopelessness that affects daily functioning.
Suicidal Thoughts or Feelings: Pondering on death, making actual plans, or even attempting suicide.
Fatigue and Lethargy: A draining lack of energy where even minor tasks feel monumental.
Disturbed Sleep and Appetite: This can be manifested as insomnia or oversleeping, as well as overeating or loss of appetite.
Difficulty Concentrating: Challenges in focusing, making decisions, or recalling details.
Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt: Harboring a negative view of oneself, ruminating over past mistakes, or blaming oneself for events outside of one's control.
Physical Symptoms: Unexplained aches, pains, or digestive problems that don't relent even with treatment.
Signs and symptoms of bipolar I and bipolar II disorders may include other features, such as anxious distress, melancholy, psychosis or others. The timing of symptoms may include diagnostic labels such as mixed or rapid cycling. In addition, bipolar symptoms may occur during pregnancy or change with the seasons.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be difficult to identify in children and teens. It's often hard to tell whether these are normal ups and downs, the results of stress or trauma, or signs of a mental health problem other than bipolar disorder.
Children and teens may have distinct major depressive or manic or hypomanic episodes, but the pattern can vary from that of adults with bipolar disorder. And moods can rapidly shift during episodes. Some children may have periods without mood symptoms between episodes.
The most prominent signs of bipolar disorder in children and teenagers may include severe mood swings that are different from their usual mood swings.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder and Risk Factors
While the exact origins remain uncertain, evidence suggests multiple causes:
Genetic Predisposition: A strong family history of bipolar disorder or other mood disorders can increase an individual's likelihood of developing the condition. It's not uncommon for those with the disorder to have a close relative, like a sibling or parent, with similar or related mental health disorders. However, it's worth noting that many people with a family history never develop bipolar disorder, and conversely, many without a family history do.
Neurological Factors: Advances in neuroimaging have unveiled potential irregularities in the brain structure or function of those with bipolar disorder. Certain imbalances in neurotransmitters, the brain's chemical messengers, could also play a role. While these findings are illuminating, they don't conclusively determine causality but rather highlight a possible biological link.
Environmental Triggers: Situational factors can act as triggers or exacerbators. Traumatic events, significant life changes, or extended periods of stress might precipitate the onset of bipolar disorder in susceptible individuals. This also encompasses substance abuse, which can both precipitate and exacerbate mood episodes.
Hormonal Imbalances: Disruptions in hormonal balance, possibly arising from thyroid or adrenal gland issues, have been associated with the onset or worsening of bipolar symptoms.
Medications and Drugs: The misuse of certain drugs, or even the intake of some prescription medicines, can lead to the manifestation of bipolar symptoms or complicate its management.
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder and Management
Medication plays a pivotal role in stabilizing moods and preventing the extreme highs and lows associated with bipolar disorder. Commonly prescribed medications include:
Mood Stabilizers: These are the primary medications for bipolar disorder and include drugs like lithium, valproate, and lamotrigine. They help control or reduce the highs and lows.
Antipsychotics: If mood stabilizers don’t work as a stand-alone, doctors might prescribe an antipsychotic. Examples include olanzapine, risperidone, and quetiapine.
Antidepressants: These can help manage depressive episodes. Sometimes they're combined with mood stabilizers to prevent triggering a manic episode.
Anti-anxiety Medications: Benzodiazepines can help with anxiety and improve sleep, but they are used on a short-term basis due to the potential for dependence.
Psychotherapy, also called "talk therapy," can be an effective treatment for bipolar disorder when combined with medication. Common approaches include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Helps individuals recognize and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that exacerbate the condition.
Family-Focused Therapy: Incorporates family members to improve communication and offer support.
Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy: Helps individuals stabilize their daily routines and improve their relationships.
Psychoeducation: Teaches patients about their condition, helping them recognize signs of mood swings.
A balanced lifestyle can mitigate the severity of episodes and sometimes even prevent them. Recommendations include:
Regular Sleep: Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is crucial.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol: Substance abuse can trigger mood episodes and interfere with the effectiveness of medication.
Stress Management: Techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and journaling can help manage stress.
Regular Physical Activity: Exercise can help stabilize mood and improve overall well-being.
Keeping track of mood changes, triggers, and medication effects can be incredibly beneficial:
Mood Charting: A daily chart or diary to record mood, medication doses, sleep patterns, and significant events can provide valuable insights.
Early Intervention: Recognizing early signs of mood swings allows for timely intervention, potentially preventing a full-blown episode.
Bipolar disorder is manageable, and our clinic, Grace Health Services LLC, provides holistic treatments:
Let’s get you the care you deserve!
Our certified providers at Grace Health Services in VA & D.C. are dedicated to understanding and treating a variety of mental health challenges. Drawing from both modern research and years of hands-on experience, we aim to provide nothing but the finest care from the moment of diagnosis.