Lookout Mountain Community Services Dedicated to health, healing, and recovery

Bipolar Disorder

What is Bipolar Disorder?

We all experience ups and downs, good days and bad days, but extreme and frequent changes in mood could be signs of more serious problems. Bipolar Disorder, once called Manic Depression is characterized by extreme emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression). The first manic or depressive episodes of bipolar disorder usually occurs in the teenage years or early adulthood and without treatment can continue with increased intensity.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

Individuals with bipolar disorder have extreme mood swings. They can experience periods of depression, periods of mania and long periods of normal mood in between. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression. This is called a mixed state. The time between these different mood changes varies greatly from person to person.

Symptoms of mania include:

  • A long period of feeling "high," or overly happy
  •  Extremely irritable mood, agitation, feeling "jumpy" or "wired." Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
  • Being easily distracted or restless and sleeping little
  • Having an unrealistic belief in one's abilities
  • Behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable, high-risk behaviors, such as spending sprees and impulsive sex.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • A long period of feeling worried or empty
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Feeling tired or "slowed down" and having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Being restless or irritable and changes in eating, sleeping
  • Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide

How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?

A mental health professional makes a diagnosis of bipolar disorder by taking a careful personal history from the individual. It is important to learn about all the details that surround any stressful  events in that person's life. No laboratory tests are required to make a diagnosis of bipolar disorder nor are there any physical conditions that must be met. However, it is very important not to overlook a physical illness that might imitate or contribute to this psychological disorder.

Treatment for bipolar

To date, there is no cure for bipolar disorder.  However medication may help individuals gain better control of their mood swings and related symptoms. In addition to medication therapy is an effective treatment for bipolar disorder. It will provide support, education, and guidance to individuals with bipolar disorder and their families. Because bipolar disorder is a lifelong and recurrent illness, individuals with bipolar need a long-term maintenance treatment plan of both medication and therapy for preventing relapse and reducing symptoms.

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