Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a common yet frequently misunderstood mental disorder affecting about 3 million American adults each year. Formerly called manic depression or manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder is characterized by unusual shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. Without theapy for bipolar disorder, it can cause significant impairment in an individual’s daily life, relationships, and professional reputation. Therefore, it is essential to speak with a Tucson psychiatrist like Dr. Julia DiPierdomenico when symptoms appear.

Bipolar Disorder

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Types and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

All types of bipolar disorder will cause clear changes in an individual’s mood and energy levels. An individual may fluctuate between episodes of mania—marked by reckless behaviors, impulsiveness, and high energy—and depressive episodes.

Bipolar I Disorder

This is the most severe type of bipolar disorder. It is characterized by significant manic episodes that take place over a period of 7 days or more. Bipolar I Disorder may also be diagnosed if an individual needs to be hospitalized during manic episodes due to severe, harmful symptoms and behaviors such as impulsiveness, impaired judgment, reduced need for sleep, and pursuit of risky activities like drug use. Depressive episodes may also occur, lasting 2 weeks or longer.

Bipolar II Disorder

Individuals with Bipolar II Disorder will experience shifts between manic and depressive episodes. However, manic episodes are milder and referred to as hypomanic episodes. Symptoms are similar, but they are less extreme. For example, an individual with Bipolar II Disorder may feel more focused and energetic during periods of hypomania. Hypomania can develop into more severe manic episodes without proper medical care.

Cyclothymic Disorder

With cyclothymic disorder, individuals will experience periods of hypomanic symptoms and depressive episodes over a period of 2 years or more. However, symptoms do not meet diagnostic requirements for Bipolar II Disorder.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Many bipolar symptoms can overlap with those of other psychiatric disorders, such as psychosis, anxiety, eating disorders, and misuse of drugs or alcohol. Therefore, it is integral to see a psychiatrist for an accurate medical diagnosis and treatment plan.

Symptoms of a Manic/Hypomanic Episode

  • Feeling wired or energetic
  • Racing thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduce need for sleep
  • Feeling capable of doing many things at once
  • Talking quickly and erratically

Symptoms of a Depressive Episode

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worry
  • Weight gain and increased appetite
  • Feeling slowed down or sluggish
  • Little interest in regular activities and hobbies
  • Oversleeping
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Frequent forgetfulness or loss of focus

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

There is no single cause attributed to bipolar disorder. Instead, researchers agree that there are likely many potential causes, including genetics, environmental factors, and brain structure and functioning. There is not a medical test to screen for physical signs of bipolar disorder. However, some tests may be used to rule out other medical conditions, such as thyroid dysfunction.

Treatment Strategies

Like many mental illnesses, bipolar disorder benefits from a two-pronged approach of medication and talk therapy. Medications may include anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications, and benzodiazepines. In addition, your psychiatrist may recommend substance abuse treatment when drug use is a factor.

Dr. Julia DiPierdomenico is a Tucson psychiatrist who works with patients experiencing a wide range of psychiatric disorders. She offers medication management, therapy, and treatment for co-occurring disorders in her Tucson psychiatric office. Call 520-261-6533 to schedule an initial psychiatric evaluation.