When we see someone switch moods suddenly, we often hear someone say, “Wow, they are so bi-polar.”
The reality is, people with bipolar disorder do not have sudden and unexpected mood swings. That is more typical of borderline personality disorder which we talked about a couple of weeks ago.
People with bipolar disorder instead have longer cycles of mood changes between mania and depression which may cycle anywhere from a few times a year to a few times a month with most cycles lasting at least a week.
During the depressed phase, the person shows all the classic signs of a depression disorder such as feeling hopeless or helpless and having little to no motivation to enjoy things they normally would have.
During the manic phase, the person may show hyperactivity, increased impulsivity, increased risky behaviors, and go days without sleep. Some can even become psychotic during this time and have delusions or hallucinations.
Bipolar disorder also carries an increased risk of suicide with nearly 50% of those with the diagnosis having attempted at some point. The risk of suicide goes up dramatically when bipolar disorder goes untreated.
So what can be done about bipolar disorder? Well, medications such as mood stabilizers and psychotherapy techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy have shown great success. The key is getting treatment. Treatment can also be difficult as 40% of people with bipolar disorder also have a lack of insight, called anosognosia, which we’ve talked about before as well. This lack of insight makes treatment routines difficult to stay on.
Again, treatment is key and is helpful. Some resources include:
The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide
New Hope for People with Bipolar Disorder
And, as I frequently mention, a great book for helping your loved one with a lack of insight help themselves:
I Am Not Sick; I Don’t Need Help!
Officer C. Morgan #622
Mental Health Peace Officer
North Richland Hills Police Department
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