Living With Bipolar Disorder
If you have bipolar disorder, its likely you will always have some degree of it. Treatment can help reduce your symptoms, but other things help, too. They include:
- Research and learn about bipolar disorder. Ask your doctor for resources. Involve your family and tell them about the condition.
- Stick to a regular routine. Go to bed and wake up at about the same time each day. Eat healthy meals. Exercise at regular times.
- Get outside. Outdoor activities are essential to maintain a stable mood.
- Take your medicine every day. Dont stop taking it, even if you start to feel better. It may take time for your medicine and therapy to have an effect on your life. Try to be patient and stay focused on your goals.
- Ask your doctor if you can drink caffeine or alcohol with your medicine.
- Learn the early warning signs of your illness. Tell your doctor when you notice changes in your mood, thoughts, or behavior.
- Join a support group. You and your family can share information and experiences with the support group. Hearing from others in similar situations can help.
Can Bipolar Disorder Run In The Family
Yes, a family history of bipolar disorder is the most influential risk factor for bipolar disorder. If youre concerned about your mental health symptoms, make sure to ask grandparents or older family members if they remember anyone else in the family facing similar struggles.
Your doctor will ask about your familys history of mental health during your diagnosis.
Why Does It Take So Long To Diagnose Bipolar Disorder
Many patients keep their diagnosis a secret, fearing personal and career fallout because of the stigma attached to mental illness. That was certainly true of Carey who says she had been struggling in silence for over a decade.
“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me, she told People Magazine. I was so terrified of losing everything. I convinced myself the only way to deal with this was to not deal with this.
Carey was diagnosed with bipolar II, a less severe of the disorder which is characterized by dramatic mood swings from highs called hypomania to lows, or depression.
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Getting An Accurate Diagnosis
Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in your bipolar disorder treatment. And it isnt always easy. The mood swings of bipolar disorder can be difficult to distinguish from other problems such as major depression, ADHD, and borderline personality disorder. For many people with bipolar disorder, it takes time and numerous doctor visits before the problem is correctly identified and treated.
Making the diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be tricky even for trained professionals, so its best to see a psychiatrist with experience treating bipolar disorder rather than a family doctor or another type of physician. A psychiatrist specializes in mental health and is more likely to know about the latest research and treatment options.
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What Is The Best Medication For Me
You need to discuss this with your doctor, but there are some general principles.
- Lithium is usually the first choice sodium valproate a second choice, although it can also be prescribed with lithium. Olanzapine can be tried if lithium and sodium valproate have not helped.
- Quetiapine can also be used, particularly where someone remains depressed between manic episodes8.
- Lamotrigine may be suggested for bipolar II disorder or bipolar depression, but not for mania.
- Sometimes a combination of these drugs is needed.
Much depends on how well you get on with a particular medication. What suits one person may not suit another.
Lithium reduces your chance of relapse by 3040%8, but the more manic episodes youve had, the more likely you are to have another one.
|Number of previous manic episodes||Chance of having another episode in the next year|
|Not taking Lithium|
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What treatment is best for bipolar disorder?
- Should I take medicine all the time or only when Im feeling bad?
- Should I make any changes to my diet or exercise plan?
- If I have bipolar disorder, will I pass it on to my children?
- What should I do if I start thinking about suicide?
- What support groups in the area do you recommend?
How Long Will Diagnosis Take
As bipolar disorder involves changes in your moods over time, your doctor may want to observe you for a while before making a diagnosis.
Your doctor will want to be careful that they give you the correct diagnosis. Bipolar disorder has some symptoms in common with other mental health problems, such as:
Because of this, it might take a long time to get a correct diagnosis sometimes it can take years.
The trouble with bipolar is that sometimes it can go undiagnosed. You don’t go to the doctor to tell them you are feeling extremely happy. That you’ve got so much energy and can conquer the world .
If you drive, you need to tell the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency that you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
For more information on your right to drive, including when and how to contact the DVLA, see our legal pages on fitness to drive.
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Signs That You May Need Bipolar Disorder Treatment With Priory
You dont need to feel alone. Bipolar disorder is a relatively common mental health condition, which around 1 in 100 people will be diagnosed with. We can help you to understand what you are going through, by addressing your specific, unique symptoms.
Previously known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme mood swings. These can range from excessive energetic highs, known as mania, to the extreme lows of depression. Episodes of these can last for anywhere between several weeks and several months.
You may be wondering how to spot the signs of bipolar disorder. Here are some key symptoms of both depressive and manic episodes, which demonstrate the conditions contrasts:
- Feelings of extreme sadness and unhappiness
- Losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed
- Low self-esteem
- Increased energy and desire to be active
- Racing thoughts and talking quickly
- Not needing as much sleep
- Unrealistic beliefs about your own abilities
If you are experiencing extreme symptoms like these, seek advice from your GP. You can see a more extensive list of bipolar disorder symptoms. The patterns of bipolar mood swings vary from person to person.
Some people experience only a handful of bipolar episodes during their lifetime others go through many episodes. While bipolar disorder can be diagnosed at any age, you will most likely have experienced symptoms during your teens. Bipolar disorder is rarely diagnosed in middle age or later life.
What Tests Do Doctors Use To Diagnose Bipolar Disorder
In addition to asking questions about symptoms, doctors may order:
- imaging tests to rule out physical conditions
- brain scans to rule out brain-related conditions, such as a tumor
- blood tests to check for conditions such as an overactive or underactive thyroid
Doctors do not use brain tests to diagnose bipolar disorder.
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Antipsychotics For Bipolar Disorder
You are most likely to be prescribed an antipsychotic if you have an episode of mania or severe depression in which you experience psychotic symptoms, such as hearing voices. However, some antipsychotics are increasingly prescribed even if you havent had psychotic symptoms, as their side effects might be less unpleasant, and theyre safer in pregnancy.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence treatment guidelines recommend the following antipsychotics:
If your first antipsychotic doesnt work, you should be offered a different one from the list above. If the second antipsychotic doesnt work you may be offered lithium to take together with an antipsychotic.
If youre prescribed an antipsychotic, youll need to have regular health checks with your doctor.
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Unspecified Or Other Specified Bipolar And Related Disorders
In some cases, a person may experience symptoms of bipolar disorder that do not fit into the other three types.
In such cases, they may receive a diagnosis that doctors call unspecified bipolar disorder and related disorders or other specified bipolar and related disorders. This will depend on the type, duration, and severity of their symptoms.
People with bipolar disorder may not realize that their moods and behavior are disrupting their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
Because of this, people who have bipolar disorder often do not get the medical attention and treatment they require. This is especially true during their euphoric manic periods.
People with bipolar disorder are more likely to seek help when they experience a depressive episode.
Because of this, the doctor may incorrectly diagnose the person with depression instead.
Once a doctor diagnoses someone with bipolar disorder, they should see their doctor often to evaluate how well any prescription medications are working. Also, a doctor may recommend that a person with bipolar disorder talk regularly with a mental health professional.
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Why Is It Difficult To Diagnose Bipolar Disorder
Some studies suggest that it can take as long as 5 to 10 years to receive a bipolar disorder diagnosis after the initial onset of symptoms. There are many reasons for this delay, such as:
Other mental health disorders like depression and borderline personality disorder cause similar symptoms.
People in the manic phase of bipolar disorder can experience psychosis . They may be misdiagnosed as having a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.
Who Is A Candidate For Diagnosis
Mood episodes are the main characteristic of bipolar disorder, and everyone experiences these a little differently. Most people who live with bipolar disorder experience manic episodes and depressive episodes .
These episodes can last for several days, weeks, or more. People with bipolar disorder tend to fluctuate rapidly between mania and depression. Some people with bipolar disorder have long periods of time with neutral moods as well.The way people experience manic episodes varies from one person to another, but the episodes are
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Challenges With Getting A Diagnosis
The symptoms of bipolar disorder can overlap with other mental health problems. Different people may experience or express their symptoms in different ways. And professionals do not always get it right.
Because of this, you might:
- Not get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder when you feel you should have one.
- Get a diagnosis of a different mental health problem, which you don’t agree with.
- Get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder that you think is incorrect.
Even if you think your diagnosis is correct, you may still feel that it doesn’t completely fit your experiences.
If you are unhappy or concerned about your diagnosis, it’s important to discuss this with your doctor.
You can make sure your voice is heard, seek a second opinion and take steps if you’re not happy with your doctor. For more information, see our pages on:
Who Diagnoses Bipolar Disorder
Psychiatrists typically diagnose bipolar disorder. These medical doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating all types of mental disorders. A mental health professional like a psychologist or licensed clinical social worker may suspect bipolar disorder based on your symptoms. These specialists may refer you to a psychiatrist for a psychiatric evaluation. Occasionally, a primary care physician may make a diagnosis.
From the community: I fought my diagnosis for years. I agree – get a 2nd opinion. That helped me come to terms with it. When a spouse cares about you, which hopefully your wife does, her input about your behavior is alot better than you think regarding assessing your behavior and whether it might be manic or not. I agree with couples counseling too. Consider having your wife go for separate counseling as well because she may have some issues to work through too. And you should have a counselor for you in addition to your psychiatrist. It’s a lot of therapists, at least initially, but it’s worth it Inspire member
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What Happens After A Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis
You may experience a mix of emotions if you receive a bipolar disorder diagnosis, including shock and sadness, but also relief and hope. Bipolar disorder is considered a lifelong condition, but there are effective treatments available for you to live a full life.
Treatments for bipolar disorder include a combination of therapy and medication. Therapy options for bipolar disorder include:
Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder
During a depressive episode, a person may experience irritability, persistent sadness, or frequent crying. He or she may have thoughts of death or suicide and lose interest in activities that were previously enjoyable. Other signs include a low energy level, fatigue, poor concentration, and a change in eating or sleeping habits.
During a manic episode, a person may seem unusually happy or excited. He or she may also talk too much and too fast or appear distracted or overly confident and ambitious.
Mania may also involve psychosis, or being out of touch with reality. This symptom can be characterized by hallucinations, which involve hearing or seeing things that arent there, or delusions, which involve believing things that arent supported by evidence.
Other symptoms of mania include experiencing increased energy despite a lack of sleep, driving recklessly, being sexually promiscuous, and engaging in risky behavior, such as abusing drugs or alcohol.
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What Causes Bipolar Disorders
A chemical imbalance in the brain causes bipolar disorders. These conditions usually have a genetic component. Therefore, if someone else in the patients biological family has a bipolar disorder, his or her likelihood of developing this mental health disorder increases. Bipolar disorders are incurable nonetheless, with proper treatment from an experienced bipolar specialist, patients can learn how to manage the symptoms associated with this mental health disorder.
Preparing For An Adult Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis
If you think you may have bipolar disorder, you can start by visiting a healthcare professional. They will likely do a physical examination, discuss your medical history, and ask you some basic questions about your symptoms, family history, and life experiences.
If your healthcare professional believes you may have bipolar disorder, they will probably refer you to a psychiatrist who will do a more detailed mental health evaluation. Some of the questions a psychiatrist may ask include:
- What symptoms are you experiencing?
- What are your thoughts and feelings like during a manic or depressive episode?
- Do you feel in control of your mania or how long an episode lasts?
- When did you first start experiencing these symptoms?
- Do you ever have suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm?
- Do you have a history of substance misuse?
- Did anyone in your family have similar symptoms or a diagnosis of bipolar disorder?
They might also ask your permission to ask friends and family about your behavior.
The diagnosis for bipolar disorder requires at least one depressive and one manic or hypomanic episode. Any diagnosis will take into account other aspects of your medical history and the medications youve taken.
- emotional outbursts
- periods of sadness
- How often does your child have emotional outbursts?
- How many hours does your child sleep a day?
- How often does your child have periods of aggression and irritability?
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What Causes Bipolar Disorder
There is no single cause for bipolar disorder. Experts think that a mix of genes and stressful life events may lead to bipolar disorder.
Genes and a family history of bipolar make it more likely for a person to develop it. But not everyone with a family history of bipolar will develop the condition. Going through very stressful life events may increase the chances for some people who have the genes for bipolar.
If you think you have bipolar disorder, start by talking to a parent or other adult. Ask them to set up a visit with your doctor or a mental health provider. Getting the right treatment matters. Find mental health providers to support you and help you learn all you can.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Bipolar Disorder
The main symptoms of bipolar disorder are mood swings. Doctors will first rule out other medical conditions that can cause mood changes. A stroke, brain tumor, or overactive or underactive thyroid can cause mood changes. Your doctor may order imaging tests, brain scans, or blood tests.
Your doctor will question you about your symptoms. A diagnosis of bipolar disorder is based on markers such as:
- severity of the manic or depressive episodes
- length of an episode or how long the episodes have persisted
- frequency of an episode
- frequency of symptoms
- experiences over a lifetime
Sometimes, people may seek help for depressive disorders, but manic episodes can go unnoticed. This is one reason bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose. In addition, bipolar disorder can mimic psychotic symptoms and be misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. Conditions such as thyroid disease, some medications, and drug use can mimic symptoms or worsen mood. These contribute to difficulty of diagnosis.
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Sometimes the symptoms of bipolar disorder may contribute to the length of time it takes to get diagnosed. When depressed, people may not have the energy or will to seek treatment.
When youre depressed, a cardinal sign is hopelessness, Jamison said. When people start to get manic they very often feel better than they ever have in their lives. So they dont feel that anything is wrong.
Still, Jamison said, when bipolar disorder is untreated, theres tremendous disability and pain and suffering.
Carey may be an example of an association Jamison pointed out years ago: the strong prevalence of bipolar disorder among creative folk, such as writers, painters and composers. Actress Carrie Fisher was praised for her candidness about her struggles with bipolar before her death in 2016.
While some patients may worry that treating the disorder might crimp their creativity, most people, in the few studies that have been done, are as productive if not more productive once theyve gotten treatment, Jamison said.