How Does A Doctor Diagnose Bipolar
To diagnose bipolar disorder, a doctor performs a physical exam, asks about your symptoms, and recommends blood testing to determine if another condition, such as hypothyroidism, is causing your symptoms. If the doctor does not find an underlying cause of your symptoms, he or she performs a psychological evaluation.
You’re Not That Bad Are You
The truth is that you never really know how severely someone is struggling on the inside. Passing judgment on how well or not well theyre doing isnt helpful.
Some people with bipolar disorder can also become quite adept at hiding the amount of distress they are in, says Elizabeth Easton, PsyD, who is the national director of psychotherapy at the Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center based in Denver. We never truly know what another person’s experience is like, so it’s best to stay curious.
Do People With Bipolar Disorder Know They Have The Condition Before Getting Diagnosed
Sometimes. For example, Ayetoro had suspicions for years before officially being diagnosed in 2014.
I experienced what I thought were abnormal swings in mood from very high energy to very low energy for a very long time before. My moods would get so low that I was spending unusual amounts of time in bed depressed, she recalls. It was strange that this depression would follow periods of extremely high spirits.
She experienced two manic episodes before receiving her diagnosis. It was somewhat of a relief to put a name to what was with me, but then began the hard road to stability.
On the other hand, Howard was surprised to receive a diagnosis of bipolar I with psychosis at age 25. As for what made me believe I may have had an illness literally nothing. I was tricked into going to the hospital. Up until the moment I was admitted, I thought everything was normal. It was quite the shock.
Who would I be without bipolar disorder? Id love to find out, he adds. But harnessing my mind and using it to the best of my ability has been my lifes work.
What Triggers Bipolar Disorder
Factors that may increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder or act as a trigger for the first episode include: Having a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with bipolar disorder. Periods of high stress, such as the death of a loved one or other traumatic event. Drug or alcohol abuse.
Remind Your Friend That Their Mood Episodes Arent Permanent
Even if they feel neverending in the moment, mood episodes come and go. Knowing that can be a huge source of optimism for people who are struggling with moods that are undesirable, says Dr. Singh.
You dont want to veer into everything will be fine! platitude territory, though. Instead, say something more honest and specific, like, I know this sucks right now. I remember you told me that you usually come out of your depressive episodes in three to four weeks, so you have about , right? Every single day that passes gets you closer to that point. Is there anything I can do to help in the meantime?
You can also take the initiative to suggest activities the two of you can do together that you think may help, even if its as simple as going outdoors and getting some exercise or fresh air, says Dr. Singh.
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Listen And Be Supportive
If someone is refusing treatment, resist the urge to walk away. This is someone you care about, so continue to provide support as long as it makes sense for your own wellness. Listen to what they have to say about treatment and their reasons for refusing. You may find that when you sit back, listen, and just provide support, your loved one will open up and give you some clues that could help you push treatment more effectively.
For example, consider the story shared by Mark K., who eventually agreed to residential treatment for his bipolar disorder after being pushed by family:
For a while my family thought that I just didnt realize I was sick. I always knew something wasnt right. The truth was that I hated the idea of having a label, of being mentally ill. I did not want to go to treatment, because it meant admitting that there was something wrong with me, so I denied it for a long time.
My brother really pushed me, and it only made me push back. My mom listened, though. She stopped pushing and just asked me questions. She listened, and that made such a big difference. One day when we were talking, I just broke down. And while I felt like a failure and weak at first, getting that off my chest also felt like a relief. She talked to me about experiences she had with depression when she was younger. I had no idea, and it really made me feel less alone. That was the real push I needed to get help.
Consider Collaborating With A Therapist
Psychotherapy is commonly used as a bipolar disorder treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common therapy for bipolar disorder, but family-focused therapy can also be quite helpful.
Therapy helps you and your loved one understand bipolar disorder better so you can learn how to handle bipolar disorder in relationships, and begin to develop effective coping strategies for long-term symptom management.
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Find What Works For You
King finds relief through self-reflection, frequent exercise, multiple hobbies, and having creative outlets. For Ayetoro, journaling and deep breathing practices help to bring her peace. Most people we interviewed are thankful for taking medication.
But what works for one person may not work for the next.
Howard encourages folks to try different things and not be afraid to fail. Every failed coping skill attempt gets you closer to what will work.
Consider combining these approaches for a more holistic treatment plan. Speak with a mental health professional to figure out what might work best for you.
Effects Of Anger On Complacency
Some relationships that orbit around bipolar anger symptoms can turn abusive, and thats not okay. Neither is just dealing with abuse to keep the peace. There needs to be mutual respect and understanding despite any underlying, undiagnosed, or untreated mental health conditions.
Meanwhile, abuse can take many forms. It can be physical, mental, emotional, financial, sexual, or verbal. Heres how to tell the difference:
- Physical abuse consists of hitting, pushing, grabbing, kicking, or other unwanted physical contacts.
- Mental abuse is when someone uses manipulative tactics to coerce certain reactions and behaviors.
- Emotional abuse involves passive-aggressiveness, controlling, and blaming others for bad behavior.
- Financial abuse is defined as unfair or manipulatively restricting living expenses to incite behaviors or reactions.
- Sexual abuse is when someone inappropriately touches you, becomes uncomfortably suggestive, or harasses you about sex.
- Verbal abuse consists of throwing insults, belittling, calling names, and trying to embarrass or shame you.
Remember, having a mental illness is not an excuse to be abusive. If you or your loved one becomes violent or cruel, seek help right away.
How Do I Get Help If I Think I Have Bipolar Disorder
The usual first step to getting help is to speak to your GP.
It can help to keep a record of your moods. This can help you and your GP to understand your mood swings. Bipolar UK have a mood diary and a mood scale on their website. You can find their details in the Useful contacts section at the bottom of this page.
Your GP cant diagnose bipolar disorder. Only a psychiatrist can make a formal diagnosis. Your GP may arrange an appointment with a psychiatrist if you have:
- depression, and
- ever felt very excited or not in control of your mood or behaviour for at least 4 days in a row.
They might refer you to a psychiatrist at your local NHS community mental health team .
Your GP should make an urgent referral to the CMHT if they think that you might have mania or severe depression. Or there is a chance that you are a danger to yourself or someone else.
Your GP should refer you to your local NHS early intervention team if you have an episode of psychosis and its your first one.
Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose because it affects everyone differently. Also, the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be experienced by people who have other mental illness diagnoses. It can take a long time to get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
You can find more information about:
- NHS mental health teams by clicking here.
Make A Plan For Manic Episodes
When your friend, partner or family member is feeling well, try talking to them about the support you can offer during a hypomanic or manic episode. This can help you both feel more stable and in control of what’s happening.
You could discuss ideas such as:
- Enjoying being creative together.
- Offering a second opinion about projects or commitments, to help them consider whether theyre taking too much on.
- Helping to manage money while theyre unwell, if theyd like you to.
- Helping them keep a routine, including regular meals and sleeping patterns.
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Bipolar Disorder And The Family
Living with a person who has bipolar disorder can cause stress and tension in the home. On top of the challenge of dealing with your loved ones symptoms and their consequences, family members often struggle with feelings of guilt, fear, anger, and helplessness. Ultimately, the strain can cause serious relationship problems. But there are better ways to cope.
The first step to successfully dealing with bipolar disorder is for families to learn to accept the illness and its difficulties. When youre feeling frustrated or guilty, remember that bipolar disorder isnt anyones fault. Accepting bipolar disorder involves acknowledging that things may never again be normal.
Treatment can make a huge difference for your loved one, but it may not take care of all symptoms or impairments. To avoid disappointment and resentments, its important to have realistic expectations. Expecting too much of your family member can be a recipe for failure. On the other hand, expecting too little can also hinder their recovery, so try to find a balance between encouraging independence and providing support.
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Disconnected: Noticing Undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder In Others
I see it often. Perhaps its that I have experienced the symptoms of bipolar disorder so many times over the years that it sticks out to me. Regardless of why I recognize it, I am noticing undiagnosed bipolar disorder in others and watching several people currently in manic episodes headed straight to disaster.
What goes up must come down, and the higher you are the harder youll smack the ground. I see at least two people flying pretty high right now in full-blown mania. One is about to fall over the edge. The other hasnt made it that far yet. I see it. They are both going to smack the ground. Hard.
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Learn More About Your Friends Specific Diagnosis
Learning as much as you can about bipolar disorder can help with knowing what to expect and what people can do to potentially be helpful and supportive, says Dr. Singh.
There are four main types of bipolar disorder, and they differ based on the mix of symptoms a person experiences. For instance, people with bipolar I can experience a wider range of symptoms involving manic episodes , hypomanic episodes , depressive episodes , along with mixed mood episodes that bring about manic and depressive symptoms at the same time, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health . People with bipolar II only experience those hypomanic and depressive episodes. Knowing the scope of your friends condition can help you offer the best support.
The joke is ignorance is bliss, but when it comes to mental health, ignorance can only be hurtful, Danyelle says. I think the more people know, the better.
Can Children And Teens With Bipolar Disorder Have Other Problems
Young people with bipolar disorder can have several problems at the same time. These include:
- Misuse of alcohol and drugs. Young people with bipolar disorder are at risk of misusing alcohol or drugs.
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder . Children and teens who have both bipolar disorder and ADHD may have trouble staying focused.
- Anxiety disorders. Children and teens with bipolar disorder also may have an anxiety disorder.
Sometimes extreme behaviors go along with mood episodes. During manic episodes, young people with bipolar disorder may take extreme risks that they wouldnt usually take or that could cause them harm or injury. During depressive episodes, some young people with bipolar disorder may think about running away from home or have thoughts of suicide.
If your child shows signs of suicidal thinking, take these signs seriously and call your childs health care provider.
If you think your child is in crisis and needs immediate help, call 911. You also can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800273TALK , or text the Crisis Text Line . These services are confidential, free, and available 24/7.
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To Make Your Friend Really Feel Heard Listen To Them Actively Instead Of Passively
Active listening involves making eye contact, affirming what the person is saying with feedback like nodding and occasional verbal responses like uh-huh, and asking clarifying questions that show youre paying close attention, Dr. Singh explains. You can also reflect their experience back to them by saying things like, So, what Im hearing from you is that the hardest part of having bipolar disorder is
Beyond that, active listening also involves avoiding the urge to immediately jump in and try to help. The way that the friend ends up finding a path to recovery could be completely different from the ideas you had, Bolton says. Or they may be similar, but allowing the space for the friend to truly feel heard is important.
You may not feel like listening is doing much, but it can. One of the most important things is being able to sit with someone in that darkness, says Danyelle. I dont expect someone to fix it and I dont want them to. Just understanding that thats the space Im in … and not being afraid to be there with me is incredibly helpful.
What Should You Not Say To Someone With Bipolar Disorder
Making judgmental statements about your loved ones condition or behaviors may worsen conflicts with them.
Instead, consider focusing on I statements that express how you feel. For example, instead of saying youre not listening, consider saying, I dont feel like youre hearing me. Instead of you never help out around the house, try Im struggling to manage the housework and need more help from you.
If your loved one gets upset during a conversation or begins escalating a conflict, the National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends:
In some cases, you might be able to talk through a conflict as it arises. In other cases, you might need to wait until you and your loved one have calmed down before problem-solving together.
Clearly communicating what you feel, want, and need is important. Giving your loved one the opportunity to share their feelings, perspective, and problem-solving suggestions is also critical to effective communication.
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Bipolar Relationships: What To Expect
Ups and downs are natural in any romantic relationship, but when your partner has bipolar disorder it can feel like youre on an emotional rollercoaster. Not knowing what to expect each day is stressful and tiring. Over time, it wears on the relationship.
Understanding why your partner acts out sometimes or becomes withdrawn is the first supportive step you can take in strengthening your relationship. Learn exactly what a bipolar diagnosis means, how it could affect your partners behavior and what you can do to foster a healthy, stable relationship.
Patterns Of Depression And Mania
If you have bipolar disorder, you may have episodes of depression more regularly than episodes of mania, or vice versa.
Between episodes of depression and mania, you may sometimes have periods where you have a “normal” mood.
The patterns are not always the same and some people may experience:
- rapid cycling where a person with bipolar disorder repeatedly swings from a high to a low phase quickly without having a “normal” period in between
- mixed state where a person with bipolar disorder experiences symptoms of depression and mania together for example, overactivity with a depressed mood
If your mood swings last a long time but are not severe enough to be classed as bipolar disorder, you may be diagnosed with a mild form of bipolar disorder called cyclothymia.
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Noticing Undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder Is Hard
I see two people who are completely caught up in a manic high. Dont get me wrong. I see more than that who are hypomanic and headed to full-blown mania. However, those two people are going to fall into a deep, dark depressive episode. Its just a matter of time. I cant say anything because Ive seen how theyve reacted to other people, and I have enough struggles of my own as I try to tread water. Its hard to sit back and watch, helplessly.
Please, please, please recognize your mania. Get help. And if you notice a close friend or family member exhibiting signs of mania, tell them. Talk to them. Try to help them. Perhaps theyll listen to you. Mania feels great, but the depression that follows can kill. Undiagnosed bipolar disorder can kill.
Read more below.
This is mania. If you dont know the song, look up the lyrics. Its mania.