How Often Do Bipolar Episodes Occur
Bipolar episodes happen at different times for different people. The frequency can depend on a lot of things, such as:
- How well you’re able to manage your symptoms.
- How you’d personally define an episode.
- Whether certain situations or experiences can trigger episodes. For example, you might find that sleeping very little or going through a stressful life event could trigger a manic episode.
The length of mood episodes can also vary. They can last for a few weeks or much longer. What’s normal for you can also change over time.
These experiences can be extremely difficult to cope with while going through them. While you’re feeling stable, it can be helpful to think about the future.
What Impact Has Bipolar Had On Your Life
For me, this is important because my experience is very unusual. I took antidepressants in my last year of school, which, when I arrived at University and took the control of living away from home, helped to induce hypomania.
I was already aware of my mood swings and studying biomedical sciences. I went to the doctor and said I thought I had bipolar, and he agreed. I met a superb psychiatrist via student health. There were a few unusual people in my extended Irish family, and at least two with probable bipolar a working diagnosis was quick.
Mood swings coloured my school and university experiences. I cycled rapidly between deep depression and hypomania. I ate too much and drank too much, partly because of the medication and partly because of anxiety, and became very obese.
I had some embarrassing moments of drunkenness, self-harm, obnoxiousness, and accrued debt. By the time I felt properly back on an even keel seven years later, I had accrued nearly £50,000 of unsecured debt, which had taken a decade to pay back.
I dont have a house or a postgraduate degree, which Id have liked and which would help now. But. I had my life.
Thanks to my psychiatrist, brilliant GP, online peer support, and carefully nurtured insight, I avoided the hospital. And because I found a sense of purpose through volunteering.
My parents were unquestioningly supportive financially, emotionally and practically. They resolved to push me through my degree at whatever cost. I am lucky they were able to.
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.
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Stable Or Neutral Periods
It’s common to have stable or neutral periods in between episodes. This doesn’t mean that you have no emotions during this time. It means that you’re not currently experiencing mania, hypomania or depression, or that you’re managing your symptoms effectively.
You might find you feel stable for years in between episodes. Or your periods of stability might be much shorter.
Stable periods can feel like a relief. But they can also feel challenging in their own way. You may feel:
- Happy, calm or relieved
- Worried about becoming unwell again
- Embarrassed or guilty about things you did or said when you were unwell
- Like you have lots to sort out or catch up on
- Like you have to ‘get back to normal life’ straight away
- That you miss elements of your life or personality from when you were unwell
- Unsure about whether to continue with medication or other treatment
It’s a lot harder coming to terms with being stable than I could have imagined. I’ve had to struggle with a ‘new’ identity and way of life after spending so many years thinking the ups and downs of bipolar are ‘normal’.
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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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.
Learn About Bipolar Disorder
If you are struggling with bipolar disorder, you are not alone. It is also important to know that there are resources available to help understand what you are experiencing and what to expect with treatment. If you struggle with bipolar disorder, you can ask your mental health professional questions, read books by and for people with bipolar disorder, and seek out articles about coping strategies for managing symptoms. Educating yourself is an important step in removing any potential shame or stigma around a bipolar diagnosis.
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Skeletal And Muscular Systems
Bipolar disorder doesnt directly affect the bones and muscles, but if you experience depressive episodes, these can affect your skeletal and muscular systems.
Depression can lead to unexplained aches and pains, which can make everyday activities difficult to manage. You might also find it difficult to exercise due to your discomfort.
Moreover, if you do experience depression, weakness and fatigue are common and can be accompanied with sleeping too much or an inability to sleep.
Anxiety associated with bipolar disorder can make your feel tired and irritable. It can also affect your gastrointestinal system.
Some of these effects include:
Such symptoms are often accompanied with feelings of panic, or a sense of impending doom. You might also sweat and breathe rapidly.
Bipolar disorder can affect your performance at work or school. It can also make it challenging to build and maintain relationships.
Other effects may include:
My Bipolar Mixed Moods
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders it used to be stated that mixed moods only occurred in bipolar I. In the latest edition of the DSM, however, it is written that mixed moods happen in bipolar II disorder as well . And I can attest to the accuracy of this. I have bipolar II and I have nasty, wicked mixed moods. In fact, like a lot of people, I experience mixed moods more than I experience pure hypomania.
Mixed moods, for me, tend to happen when my medication gets out of whack. They can also appear thanks to stress. Last year, when I wrote my book, Lost Marbles, I had a bipolar mixed episode that lasted for months.
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Bipolar 1 Disorder Vs Bipolar 2 Disorder
There are three types of bipolar depression. Bipolar 1 Disorder is characterized by manic episodes lasting seven days or more and depressive episodes lasting two weeks or more. Manic episodes may be severe enough to require hospitalization. For people who have Bipolar 1, its also possible for them to experience a mix of depressive and manic symptoms in rapid succession.
With Bipolar 2 Disorder, depressive episodes are broken up by episodes of hypomania. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. Symptoms are milder and last for several days instead of a week or more.
Cyclothymic disorder is a rare mood disorder that causes emotional highs and lows that may go on for months at a time, but are not as severe as what happens with Bipolar 1 Disorder or Bipolar 2 Disorder.
How Is A Bipolar Episode With Mixed Features Diagnosed
Diagnosing bipolar disorder can be difficult. There is no one test. Instead, a variety of tools are used. Once bipolar disorder is confirmed, the type of bipolar disorder will be determined, as well.
Bipolar disorder is diagnosed by a psychiatrist or another mental health professional. They will take a medical history and discuss symptoms. They may work with a primary care doctor to rule out any other conditions that could explain the behavior.
A bipolar episode with mixed features can be diagnosed, per the DSM-5, if:
- there are three or more manic or hypomanic symptoms during a major depressive episode
- there are three or more depressive symptoms during a manic or hypomanic episode
While there are noted risk factors for bipolar disorder and bipolar episodes, risk factors for episodes with mixed features are less clear.
and/or substance use disorders.
Psychotic features may also be more common in episodes with mixed features, so its important to treat symptoms of these episodes and work with your doctor to manage bipolar disorder.
Following a treatment plan and support when needed can help with managing bipolar disorder, reducing the frequency and severity of episodes, and improve daily life.
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Tips For Living With Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that doesnt go away on its own. While it can feel overwhelming and isolating at first, an early, accurate diagnosis is the first step toward getting better. Proper treatment, along with support and self-care, helps people with bipolar disorder live healthy, fulfilling lives.
What Does Bipolar Cycling Feel Like
A cycle refers to the period of time when someone with bipolar goes between manic or hypomanic and depressive episodes. Someone with rapid-cycling bipolar experiences four or more episodes within a year.
As a bipolar woman, I have lived much of my life in a constant state of becoming someone else. The precise term for my disorder is ultraradian rapid cycler, which means that without medication I am at the mercy of my own spectacular mood swings: up for days , then down, and essentially immobile, for weeks at a time.
What we call bipolar is an enormously complex illness, but strip it to its most essential element and what were left with can be best described as a cycling illness.We are talking many cycles, not just one. Cycles within cycles, if you like. Throw any one of them out of whack and there goes your precision timing, your sense of being in control. Then life becomes a mad scramble, like juggling spinning plates. Inevitably, it happensthe plates crash to the floor. But always in a perverse slow motion that gives you just enough time to make the horrible realizationyet once againthat things have slipped away from you. And there you are, alone in the awful bitter aftermath, left to pick up the pieces.
-Elissa Washuta, My Body Is a Book of Rules
-Christine F. Anderson, Forever Different: A Memoir of One Womans Journey Living with Bipolar Disorder
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What Does Bipolar Feel Like
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 4.4% of American adults have bipolar disorder. But, what does bipolar feel like? And how do you know if you might have it?
Onset typically occurs in a persons mid-twenties, with people between 18 and 29 having the highest rates of the disorder. While bipolar disorder is not curable, it is treatable and can be managed so you can lead a productive, healthy lifestyle.
If left untreated, however, bipolar disorder can negatively affect your overall health. For example, it can cause a reduction in lifespan among some people but increase the risk of suicide and substance use disorders.
Here Is How This Young Man Describes His Bipolar Depression
When Im depressed, I want to be left alone. Its not that I want to be by myself I want everyone to disappear. I dont want to go anywhere, see anyone, or do anything. Its like no matter what I do, people are telling me Im doing something wrong. So, the easiest way to feel better is to hide.
Seeing all those people carrying on, living their happy little lives is an annoying reminder of my bipolar disorder and how Ill never have that kind of stability. Whats worse is hearing all the people I entertain while in my mania talk about how quiet I am and that Im not entertaining. Do they try to cheer me up, or do something to make me laugh? No. They just want their clown back. Its annoying.
No matter what it is work, hanging out with friends, exercise I dont enjoy things because the smallest details annoy me. If friends invite me out, I imagine waiting for the bus, being crammed against angry people, waiting in lines, and all the other negative things. I think of every possible downside of something, which leaves me dreading the idea of doing anything.
I turn into this grumpy old man. Ive contemplated suicide and have attempted it once before.
But the more I understand the problem, the more I know that the depression is temporary and I dont always think clearly during it. That self-reminder helps me from doing anything stupid.
When I think about the future, I dont like what I see. I can only envision more troubles, endless work, and an endless string of letdowns.
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What Causes Bipolar Disorder
Experts dont know for sure why some people experience bipolar disorder. Your genetics can play a part and your experiences too.
If any of your family members have experienced bipolar disorder, youve more change of developing it too. But scientists say no single gene can be linked to bipolar disorder.
Someone in your immediate family might live with bipolar disorder, like a parent, brother, or sister. If they do, theres a 13 in 100 chance you will develop it too. The risk is higher if both of your parents or your twin live with the condition.
For some people symptoms of bipolar disorder can be triggered by stressful things in their lives. These things can include:
- relationship problems,
- being in debt or money issues.
You can find more information about Does mental illness run in families by clicking here.
What Are The Different Types Of Bipolar Disorder
There are different types of bipolar disorder.
What is bipolar disorder I disorder?
A diagnosis of bipolar I disorder means you will have had at least 1 episode of mania that lasts longer than 1 week. You may also have periods of depression. Manic episodes will generally last 3-6 months if left untreated. Depressive episodes will generally last 6-12 months without treatment.
What is bipolar II disorder?
A diagnosis of bipolar II disorder means it is common to have symptoms of depression. You will have had at least 1 period of major depression. And at least 1 period of hypomania instead of mania.
What is bipolar I or II disorder with mixed features?
You will experience symptoms of mania or hypomania and depression at the same time. You may hear this being called mixed bipolar state. You may feel very sad and hopeless at the same time as feeling restlessness and being overactive.
What is bipolar I or II disorder with rapid cycling?
Rapid cycling means you have had 4 or more depressive, manic or hypomanic episodes in a 12-month period.
What is bipolar I or II with seasonal pattern?
Seasonal pattern means that either your depression, mania or hypomania is regularly affected in the same way by the seasons. For example, you may find that each winter you have a depressive episode, but your mania doesnt regularly follow a pattern.
There can be some similarities between bipolar I or II with seasonal pattern and another conditional called seasonal affective disorder.
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Talking To A Health Care Provider About Your Mental Health
If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. You can also contact the Crisis Text Line . For medical emergencies, call 911.
Communicating well with a health care provider can improve your care and help you both make good choices about your health. Find tips to help prepare for and get the most out of your visit. For additional resources, including questions to ask a provider, visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website.