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.
Cyclothymic Disorder Or Cyclothymia
You can think of this third, spin-off version of bipolar disorder as a sort of long-term or chronic version of mood shifts between depressed mood and mania. With cyclothymia, people experience mild levels of depression and mania alternating back and forth for at least two years. That two-year symptom experience can be interrupted for a few weeks where things seem normal, before theyre back to the patterns of mood swings again.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Bipolar Disorder
Researchers aren’t sure what exactly causes bipolar disorder, but there appears to be an association between the condition and genetics, brain structure, and brain function.
Nature GeneticsClinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health
Studies using brain-imaging tools, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography , have attempted to reveal how the brains of people with bipolar disorder differ from the brains of healthy people or those with other mental disorders.
Dialogues of Clinical NeuroscienceJournal of Affective Disorders
People with a history of other mental health disorders including anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder appear to be at an increased risk of developing bipolar disorder, though these links are still being studied.
A number of symptoms or situations that result from bipolar disorder can also be triggers for the disorder. Changes in sleep patterns, blowout arguments with coworkers or loved ones, high stress or traumatic events, alcohol abuse, certain medication interactions, shifts in season, and the hormonal changes of pregnancy can all put you at a greater risk of a manic or depressive episode.
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How Long Can You Live With Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition although the symptoms can come and go, it requires ongoing treatment and does not go away on its own.
A study of the mortality risk in mental disorders found that people with bipolar disorder, among other conditions, had an increased risk of mortality compared with the general population.
However, the right long-term, ongoing treatment can help control symptoms and enable people with bipolar disorder to live a long and healthy life.
When To See A Doctor
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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Should You Have Children If You Have Bipolar Disorder
Knowing that there is an increased risk of bipolar disorder in children of those with bipolar disorder, should parents with the disorder have children?
This is a question that doesn’t have a right or wrong answer. There are many medical conditions that may have a hereditary aspect. In addition, there is not a single gene or gene sequence that “guarantees” a child will develop bipolar disorder.
It’s important to note that nothing says that having a child who does develop a mental health disorder will not be a wonderfully fulfilling experience.
Individuals must decide for themselves that is best for them and their family. Knowing you have a family history, however, can be very helpful in monitoring your child should they exhibit any signs or symptoms in order to recognize the condition before an episode of mania is occurring.
How To Cope With Bipolar Disorder
No matter how down or out of control you feel, its important to remember that youre not powerless when it comes to bipolar disorder. Beyond the treatment you get from your doctor or therapist, there are many things you can do for yourself to reduce your symptoms and stay on track.
Living well with bipolar disorder requires certain adjustments. Like diabetics who take insulin or recovering alcoholics who avoid drinking, if you have bipolar disorder, its important to make healthy choices for yourself. Making these healthy choices will help you keep your symptoms under control, minimize mood episodes, and take control of your life.
Managing bipolar disorder starts with proper treatment, including medication and therapy. But there is so much more you can do to help yourself on a day-to-day basis. These tips can help you influence the course of your illness, enabling you to take greater control over your symptoms, to stay well longer, and to quickly rebound from any mood episode or relapse.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder can look very different in different people. The symptoms vary widely in their pattern, severity, and frequency. Some people are more prone to either mania or depression, while others alternate equally between the two types of episodes. Some have frequent mood disruptions, while others experience only a few over a lifetime.
There are four types of mood episodes in bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, depression, and mixed episodes. Each type of bipolar disorder mood episode has a unique set of symptoms.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder
The defining sign of bipolar I disorder is a manic episode that lasts at least one week, while people with bipolar II disorder or cyclothymia experience hypomanic episodes.
But many people with bipolar disorder experience both hypomanic/manic and depressive episodes. These changing mood states dont always follow a set pattern, and depression doesnt always follow manic phases. A person may also experience the same mood state several times with periods of euthymia in between before experiencing the opposite mood.
Mood changes in bipolar disorder can happen over a period of weeks, months and sometimes even years.
An important aspect of the mood changes is that theyre a departure from your regular self and that the mood change is sustained for a long time. It may be many days or weeks in the case of mania and many weeks or months in the case of depression.
The severity of the depressive and manic phases can differ from person to person and in the same person at different times.
Signs and symptoms of manic episodes
Some people with bipolar disorder will have episodes of mania or hypomania many times throughout their life others may experience them only rarely.
Signs and symptoms of a manic episode include:
Most of the time, people experiencing a manic episode are unaware of the negative consequences of their actions. With bipolar disorder, suicide is an ever-present danger some people become suicidal in manic episodes, not just depressive episodes.
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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.
What Medications Are Used To Treat Bipolar Disorder
Certain medications can help manage symptoms of bipolar disorder. You may need to try several different medications, with guidance from your healthcare provider, before finding what works best.
Medications healthcare providers generally prescribe to treat bipolar disorder include:
- Mood stabilizers.
- Second-generation neuroleptics .
If youre taking medication for bipolar disorder, you should:
- Talk with your healthcare provider to understand the risks, side effects and benefits of the medication.
- Tell your healthcare provider about any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications or supplements youre already taking.
- Tell your healthcare provider right away if youre experiencing concerning side effects. They may need to change your dose or try a different medication.
- Remember that medication for bipolar disorder must be taken consistently, as prescribed.
Mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder
People with bipolar disorder typically need mood-stabilizing medication to manage manic or hypomanic episodes.
Types of mood stabilizers and their brand names include:
- Lithium .
- Lamotrigine .
Thyroid gland and kidney problems can sometimes develop when taking lithium, so your healthcare provider will monitor the function of your thyroid and kidneys, as well as monitor the levels of lithium in your blood, as levels can easily become too high.
However, other medications, such as olanzapine , risperidone and aripiprazole , are commonly prescribed as well.
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A Higher Risk Of Depression
In females, research suggests that bipolar II is more common than bipolar I. A person with bipolar II experiences depression and hypomania, a less extreme form of mania.
In females with bipolar disorder generally, depressive symptoms are more likely to be dominant. In fact, females with the condition are twice as likely to experience depression as males. Females are also more likely to experience psychosis with depression.
Because depressive symptoms tend to be dominant, females with bipolar disorder often receive an incorrect diagnosis of depression.
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How Bipolar Disorder Is Diagnosed And Treated
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. While some people with BD may have a single episode of mania, often people experience more than one mood episode.
If not treated, BD tends to get worse over time with more frequent, more intense episodes.
The key is to treat the symptoms, so episodes can be managed. Between episodes, people with BD may be free from mood changes. Others may have lingering symptoms. By sticking to a well-rounded treatment plan, it is possible to manage symptoms effectively.
To diagnose BD, a doctor may perform a physical exam and ask questions to rule out other illnesses that may resemble bipolar disorder. To be diagnosed, a person must have at least one episode of mania and one episode of depression. A mental health professional will assess symptoms, patterns in symptoms, and their severity to determine the type of bipolar disorder it may be.
Similar to other mental health issues, bipolar disorder is treated through a combination of things, including medication, therapies, or a variety of other activities. In addition, developing healthy routines including regular sleep, exercise, and avoiding substance use are helpful for people with BD.
The foundation of successful BD treatment involves prescription medications and therapy. The vast majority of people who seek appropriate medical care make some degree of meaningful recovery.
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When Should I Go To The Emergency Room For Bipolar Disorder
If youre experiencing any of these situations, its essential to call 911 or get to the nearest emergency room:
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
- Thoughts or plans of hurting yourself or others.
- Experiencing hallucinations and delusions.
- Symptoms of lithium toxicity , such as severe nausea and vomiting, severe hand tremors, confusion and vision changes.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. But long-term, ongoing treatment, such as medication and talk therapy, can help manage your symptoms and enable you to live a healthy, purposeful life. Its important to see your healthcare team regularly to monitor your treatment plan and symptoms. Know that your healthcare providers and loved ones are there to support you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/12/2022.
Bipolar Disorder Can Be Manageddont Lose Hope
Trying to manage a new diagnosisor an existing onecan be challenging. The following may be helpful to make it seem less overwhelming.
- Stick to the treatment process it may take some time to achieve meaningful progress, but its worth it
- Keep all appointments and talk to your doctor about all questions and concerns, especially as they relate to the treatment process
- Take all medications as directed and talk to your doctor if you need a change in treatment
- Build a routine and stick to it this includes exercise, sleeping, and eating
- Try to be patient improvement takes time and having strong social support can help
- Stay away from alcohol and drugs as their use can influence brain connections, leading to mood swings
Even though bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness, treatment for it is effective. With management of the condition, people can both control their symptoms and live healthy lives.
McLean offers world-class bipolar disorder care. If you or a loved one are struggling with mental illness, call us today at to learn more about treatment options.
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How Early Can Bipolar Disorder Be Diagnosed
Bipolar disorder is one of the most complex and often misdiagnosed mental disorders in the world. People often struggle for years or even decades before getting an accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Because the symptoms of the disorder shift between different phases, physicians may miss certain aspects of the persons illness and wrongfully give them a diagnosis of depression, ADHD or other disorders often confused with bipolar disorder.
It is important to get an accurate diagnosis as early as possible but it can be difficult with the many changing symptoms that a bipolar person experiences. Fortunately it is possible to diagnose bipolar disorder even in childhood although it is more likely to be diagnosed in adolescents and young adults. Children can actually experience many symptoms of early onset bipolar disorder but it may take time for their family to realize that there is a problem.
Identifying and understanding bipolar disorder in young children can be complicated because kids may manifest the symptoms differently than adults do. For example, during manic episodes children may be more likely to be irritable and prone to destructive outbursts rather than experiencing the kind of euphoria that adults do. During a depressive phase they might have more physical complaints such as headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches or tiredness.
What Is Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I disorder is a form of mental illness. A person affected by bipolar I disorder has had at least one manic episode in their life. A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated or irritable mood and high energy, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life.
Most people with bipolar I disorder also suffer from episodes of depression. Often, there is a pattern of cycling between mania and depression. This is where the term “manic depression” comes from. In between episodes of mania and depression, many people with bipolar I disorder can live normal lives.
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Mental Health Treatment Locator
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides this online resource for locating mental health treatment facilities and programs. The Mental Health Treatment Locator section of the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator lists facilities providing mental health services to persons with mental illness. Find a facility in your state at www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp.
What Are The Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder symptoms can make it difficult to deal with day-to-day life. It can have a bad effect on your relationships and work. The different types of symptoms are described below.
Symptoms of mania can include:
- feeling happy or excited, even if things arent going well for you,
- being full of new and exciting ideas,
- moving quickly from one idea to another,
- racing thoughts,
- sleeping too much or not being able to sleep,
- eating less or over eating,
- losing or gaining weight, when you dont mean to, and
- thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.
Sometimes you can have psychotic symptoms during a severe episode of mania or depression. Symptoms of psychosis can be:
- hallucinations. This means that you may hear, see, or feel things that are not there, and
- delusions. This means you may believe things that arent true. Other people will usually find your beliefs unusual.
Psychotic symptoms in bipolar disorder can reflect your mood. For example, if you have a manic episode you may believe that you have special powers or are being monitored by the government. If you have depressive episode, you may feel very guilty about something you think you have done. You may feel that you are worse than anybody else or feel that you don’t exist.
You can find more information about:
- Depression by clicking here.
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