Get Help For Bipolar Disorder

A Psychiatrist for Bipolar Disorder Discusses Symptoms and Treatment

psychiatrist for bipolar disorder

Do You Have Bipolar Disorder?

A number of people come to me suspecting they have bipolar disorder. These patients often report extreme emotional highs and lows, as well as some other common symptoms such as feeling sad or manic. However, not everyone who experiences these symptoms has bipolar disorder. I wanted to write this article to provide some information so that people can learn more about bipolar disorder, and can get the help they need.  Although this information will be helpful-nothing is more effective than an in-person session with a trained clinician so that you can be properly screened, and make sure that you can explore all possible treatment options.

 

Bipolar Disorder Defined

In laymen’s terms, Bipolar disorder (often called manic depression) is a mental health condition whereby people experience extreme highs (mania), as well as intense periods of sadness or depression. The phases of depression and mania are known as “episodes,” and they can shift quickly.

Bipolar Disorder and the Brain

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in energy, mood, activity levels, and can affect the person’s ability to carry out daily tasks.

 

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are four basic types of bipolar disorder. Each of these types involves distinct changes in energy, mood, and activity levels. These moods range from manic episodes (periods of extremely “up,” elated, and energized behavior), to depressive episodes where the client presents as “down,” very sad, or hopeless. Less severe manic periods are known as “hypomanic episodes.”

 

Commonalities in Bipolar Disorder

What is common in all types of bipolar disorder is that people with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotion, changes in activity levels and sleep patterns, as well as unusual behaviors. These distinct periods are known as “mood episodes.” What is different with bipolar disorder, is that these mood episodes are drastically different from the behaviors and moods that are typical for that particular person. When people experience these mood episodes, we typically see extreme changes in the person’s activity, energy, and sleep patterns.

Sometimes a mood episode includes symptoms of both manic and depressive symptoms. This is called an episode with mixed features. People experiencing an episode with mixed features may feel very sad, empty, or hopeless, while at the same time feeling extremely energized.

Bipolar disorder can be present even when mood swings are less extreme. For example, some people with bipolar disorder experience hypomania, a less severe form of mania. During a hypomanic episode, an individual may feel very good, be highly productive, and function well. The person may not feel that anything is wrong, but family and friends may recognize the mood swings and/or changes in activity levels as possible bipolar disorder. Without proper treatment, people with hypomania may develop severe mania or depression.

 

Diagnostic Criteria for Bipolar Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, lists criteria for diagnosing bipolar and related disorders. This manual is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.  Diagnostic criteria for bipolar and related disorders are based on the specific type of disorder:

For Bipolar I disorder, you have to have had at least one manic episode. The manic episode may be preceded, or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. Mania symptoms cause significant impairment in your life and may require hospitalization or trigger a break from reality (psychosis).

For Bipolar II disorder, you have to have had at least one major depressive episode lasting at least 2 weeks and at least one hypomanic episode lasting at least four days. People with Bipolar disorder II have never had a manic episode. Major depressive episodes or the unpredictable changes in mood and behavior can cause distress or difficulty in areas of your life.

For Cyclothymic disorder you must have had it at least two years, or one year for children and teenagers, where you have had numerous periods of hypomania symptoms (this is the less severe episode than a hypomanic episode) and periods of depressive symptoms (less severe than a major depressive episode). During that time, symptoms occur at least half the time and never go away for more than two months. Symptoms cause significant distress in important areas of your life.

There are other types of Bipolar disorder, which include bipolar and related disorders caused by another medical condition, such as Cushing’s disease, stroke, or multiple sclerosis.  There is an additional type called substance and medication-induced bipolar and related disorder.

Note that Bipolar II disorder is not a milder form of Bipolar I disorder, but a separate diagnosis. While the manic episodes of bipolar I disorder can be dangerous and severe, individuals with Bipolar II disorder have been known to be depressed for longer periods of time, which can lead to significant impairment in their daily functioning.

 

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

With proper diagnosis and treatment, people who have bipolar disorder are able to lead healthy and productive lives. Speak with your doctor or a licensed mental health professional if you think you might have Bipolar disorder. We cannot stress enough that you should have a physical exam to rule out other conditions.  Some Bipolar disorder symptoms are similar to other illnesses, which can make it hard for a doctor to make an accurate diagnosis.

If the problems are not caused by physical illnesses, a mental health evaluation should be done with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, social worker, or psychologist who has experience in diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder can sometimes co-occur with another illnesses such as an anxiety disorder, eating disorder or with substance abuse. In addition, some people with Bipolar disorder are at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, thyroid disease, heart disease, migraine headaches, and other illnesses.

 

Want Help? Call Us

If you would like to set up an appointment for an evaluation call us at 713.426.3100.

 

 

Bipolar Disorder Treatments and Drugs

Bipolar Disorder Treatment Options

The good news is that treatment for Bipolar Disorder helps many people-even those with the most severe forms of bipolar disorder, to gain better control of their mood swings and other bipolar symptoms. A typical, effective, plan for treatment includes a combination of psychotherapy (also called “talk therapy”), and some type of medication.

No Quick Fixes

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. Unfortunately, episodes of depression and mania often return over time. However, typically, many people with bipolar disorder are free of mood changes between episodes. Some people may have lingering symptoms. In the long-term, most people with bipolar disorder need continuous treatment to help to control any symptoms that arise.

 

Use of Medications for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder Treatments and Drugs

Different types of medications are available that can help control symptoms of bipolar disorder. Oftentimes, those with Bipolar Disorder may need to try several different medications before finding ones that work best for them.

Medications generally used to treat bipolar disorder include:
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Atypical antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants

 

Those taking these medications should:

Make sure they take the time to talk with their pharmacist or doctor so they can understand the benefits and risks of the medication.

Do not suddenly stop taking a medication without first  talking to your doctor, because doing so may lead to “rebound” or worsening of the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and other uncomfortable or potentially dangerous withdrawal effects.

Immediately report any side effects or concerns to their doctor. The doctor may want to try a different medication, or adjust the dosage of the medication.

Psychotherapy

When done in combination with medication, psychotherapy (also known as “talk therapy”) can be an effective treatment for Bipolar Disorder. A professional therapist trained in helping people with Bipolar Disorder can offer support, education, and guidance to people with Bipolar Disorder and their families. Some psychotherapy treatments used to treat bipolar disorder include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Family-focused therapy
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy
  • Psychoeducation

Other Treatment Options

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

This form of treatment has been proven to provide relief for people with severe bipolar disorder who have not been able to recover with other treatments. Sometimes ECT is used for bipolar symptoms when other medical conditions, including pregnancy, make taking medications too risky. Some short-term side effects can be seen with ECT such as confusion, disorientation, and memory loss. We recommend you discuss with your doctor the possible benefits and risks of using ECT.

 

Sleep Medications

Those with bipolar disorder who have trouble sleeping typically find that treatment is helpful. And in the case where sleeplessness does not improve, your medical provider may suggest a change in medications. If the problem continues, the doctor may prescribe sedatives or other sleep medications.

 

Supplements

We do not recommend the use of supplements as there is not enough research done on natural or herbal supplements and their effect on bipolar disorder.

If you are taking any supplements we recommend that you let your primary care doctor or psychiatrist know about these and any over-the-counter medications because certain supplements taken together with medications may cause drug interactions that can be dangerous.

 

Getting Help For Bipolar Disorder

Your primary care physician or family doctor is the best resource to start so that any medical issues which may be impacting you can be ruled out.

They will typically refer you to a mental health practitioner. Ideally, if you suspect you have symptoms of Bipolar Disorder-you should request any provider you see has this specialization. In addition, to exploring medications through a psychiatrist, as mentioned above, some form of talk therapy have been shown to be helpful through the treatment process.

If you, or a loved one is in crisis- call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone and all calls are confidential.

If you would like to make an appointment to see our Integrative Psychiatrist for Bipolar Disorder and learn more about Bipolar Disorder Treatments and Drugs, call us at 713.426.3100.