Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a condition that results in unpredictable behaviors and emotional fluctuations. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the condition affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans every year. That’s 2.6% of the U.S. population aged 18 and older.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycles of depression and mania that make it nearly impossible to lead a productive or stable life. While depressed, you may not have the motivation for anything at all. If you’re in a manic state, your lack of inhibition leads to irresponsible and nonsensical behaviors. Making sure you have a proper diagnosis early enough is essential to avoiding problems and starting on a path to wellness.

Successful bipolar disorder treatment depends on a large number of factors; medication doesn’t do the job alone. To maximize your treatment’s effectiveness, you should learn about the condition and communicate with doctors and therapists. Maintain a strong support network so that you can keep a safety net close in case of any issues with medication. Sticking with your regimen will reduce your need for medication as time goes on.

Bipolar disorder won’t disappear overnight. Much like the illness itself, the treatment comes in phases. These phases can be especially difficult if you are suffering from bipolar disorder and substance use disorder, which often occur together. Setbacks happen, and the perfect treatment might take some time to find. However, staying committed will help you control your symptoms and take back your life.

Understand that there is a separation between your symptoms and your actual self. You’ll be able to separate your actual character traits from your bipolar or substance use episodes and how they make you behave. Speak with your doctor regarding the behaviors you want to alter, and then create solid goals for enacting that alteration. It’s never too late to begin crafting a wellness-centered lifestyle so that you can stay socially connected and physically healthy. Take the proper steps to regulate your life with a consistent sleep schedule and avoiding mind-altering substances.

Receiving an Accurate Diagnosis for Bipolar Disorder

Receiving an accurate diagnosis regarding your mental health is always the first step, even if it might not sound as easy as walking into the local clinic. Other mental conditions can mimic bipolar disorder; these include ADHD, depression, and borderline personality disorder. Therefore, taking the time to sift through all of the possibilities with numerous clinical visits may be required before a treatment plan is implemented.

Definitively stating that an individual is bipolar can be difficult even for veterans of the medical field. It’s ideal to see a psychiatrist with a strong background in bipolar disorder rather than a general practitioner or your regular family doctor. Since psychiatrists specialize in mental health, they will understand the best treatment options based on the most recent science-backed research.

What Should Someone Expect During a Bipolar Examination?

Since bipolar disorder can’t be confirmed by lab tests, your doctor will conduct a physical and medical history exam. This is done to rule out medications or different illnesses that may be causing your symptoms. It is not uncommon for an undiagnosed thyroid issue to mimic the symptoms of bipolar disorder, for example. While evaluating your psychiatric history, your doctor could speak with friends and family regarding your moods. Frequently, those who are closest to you can give a more accurate picture as to the triggers for your symptoms.

Bipolar disorder can also be mimicked by a variety of stimulants and depressants, both legal and illegal. These include but are not limited to:

• Alcohol-induced adrenal disorders
• Anti-anxiety medication
• Antidepressants
• Cocaine
• Parkinson’s disease medication
• Corticosteroids
• Vitamin B12-deficiency
• Caffeine

The Different Types of Bipolar Disorder

Each type of bipolar disorder is identifiable via the pattern of episodes of depression and mania. Your treatment will be determined by the type of bipolar disorder you have.

Bipolar I Disorder

This is the most classic form of bipolar disorder and also the most severe. It is most notable for the occurrence of at least one manic episode or one mixed episode. The majority of people who suffer from bipolar I disorder have usually gone through one major episode of depression as well; however, this is not something that is absolutely required for a diagnosis.

Bipolar II Disorder

In this version of bipolar disorder, mania is not as prominent of a feature. Instead, what’s highlighted most are episodes of hypomania and major depression. Hypomania is a milder version of mania in that the upward emotional swing is not so drastic. For this diagnosis to apply to you, you have to have gone through at least one occurrence of hypomania and one major depression within your life. In the case of a full-blown manic episode, your diagnosis will probably be changed to bipolar I.


A more moderate form of bipolar disorder, cyclothymia involves cycles of moods. However, the ups and the downs are not drastic enough to be considered a major depressive or manic episode. A cyclothymia diagnosis is considered when you’ve gone through multiple periods of mild depression and hypomania in within at least two years. Since people with cyclothymia have an increased danger of developing bipolar disorder, the condition must be monitored carefully.

Do You Have Bipolar Disorder or Depression?

Depression and bipolar disorders of all types can be easily misdiagnosed as each other because they share the same symptoms. People who have bipolar disorder are also depressed more often than they are manic, so this makes the situation even more confounding. Laymen might not be able to understand the nuanced differences between each mental malady and how to begin tackling them. However, you shouldn’t lose hope as the careful eye of a well-trained psychiatrist throughout multiple visits can usually detect the subtle differences that make an accurate diagnosis possible.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment Options

When dealing with bipolar disorder, there needs to be a comprehensive treatment plan to eliminate symptoms as much as possible. Sometimes, people will attempt to self-medicate with substances, but this will only lead to substance use disorders and a worsening of the bipolar condition. People who fall into this trap often need integrated treatments for addiction and bipolar disorder because each feeds into the other.

A comprehensive bipolar treatment strategy will include these five points:

1) Psychotherapy to help with detailing the mental effects of bipolar disorder and how it has impacted your life. Uncomfortable feelings and broken relationships are confronted to manage your mood and stress levels.

2) Medication is used to reduce the peaks and troughs of the illness.

3) Lifestyle management tools such as exercise and healthy eating will help regulate your mood and give you a sense of control over your daily life.

4) Education about your condition is important so that you can understand what you’re suffering from.

5) A robust support network should help you spot triggers so that they can be managed before they occur. Family and friends are invaluable assets during the recovery process.

Because most people with bipolar disorder require proper medication, they will be monitored to see when their symptoms are under control. The severity of bipolar episodes is reduced as long as the medication is used on an ongoing, long-term basis. If you have such a diagnosis, then your doctor will work with you to find the right combination of drugs for your situation. As everyone will react differently to different medications, you might have to experiment with a variety of choices before the perfect match is found for your situation.

Your doctor will want frequent check-ins to monitor your progress and ensure that your medication is at the proper level. The dosage is very much subjective, and it can easily be knocked out of balance if not taken appropriately. Even when your moods become stabilized, it’s critical that you don’t stop taking your medication. To avert a major episode or a relapse, keeping to the plan is essential.

However, medication will not solve all of your problems with bipolar disorder. If you want to feel your best, you’ll need to introduce exercise, which will help regulate your hormones and endorphins. Getting plenty of rest and relaxation is also paramount. Be leery of over-reliance on antidepressants because they can cause episodes of rapid changes between ups and downs in people who suffer from bipolar disorder.

The Significance of Therapy in Treating Bipolar Disorder

While in therapy, you’ll learn how to cope with the problems that bipolar symptoms are causing in your life. Therapy can therefore help improve your work ethic, relationships, and any self-esteem issues that crop up when episodes strike. Substance use disorder and anxiety will also be addressed in therapy sessions.

If you need help overcoming substance use disorder while suffering from bipolar disorder, consider getting treatment at a live-in rehab clinic such as NFA Behavioral Health. Once you are sober, you will be able to better maintain the right management frame around your state of mind.

Professional Help at NFA Behavioral Health

At NFA Behavioral Health in Canterbury, NH, we understand the importance of therapy for people with bipolar disorder. Interpersonal sessions are not only possible but encouraged as a means to break through barriers of stress. As stress is one of the main triggers for those suffering from bipolar disorder, this relationship-focused approach between client and clinician will help to limit bipolar mood cycling.

Our recovery specialists use cognitive behavioral therapy to investigate how your thought patterns impact your emotions. The brain can create a positive or negative feedback loop based on the severity of the symptoms and how you view them. The key in cognitive-behavioral therapy is to address each logical distortion in your worldview with a rational response. Eventually, the process becomes second-nature and your brain will automatically begin making perfectly rational retorts to knee-jerk cognitive distortions. This nips triggers in the bud before they have a chance to take root.

Furthermore, we use family-focused therapies to help deal with the relationship strains that come with bipolar disorder. Teaching family about bipolar disorder and how to handle the symptoms is crucial to restoring a warm, loving home environment. The key idea is to integrate the individual back into the household in a way that is productive for all parties involved. This minimizes the risks of relapse.

Bipolar disorder is difficult enough to conquer on its own. If you add a substance addiction to the mix, recovery can be even more complicated. That’s why it’s best for addicts with bipolar disorder to seek professional help. Take the first step by learning more about your options. With assistance, you could find a new life in sobriety.