What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a psychological disorder that may often develop before an individual is 25-years-old. This disorder doesn’t just look at mood swings throughout the course of a single day. In fact, Bipolar Disorder is characterized by shifts in mood that can last between four days to upwards of two weeks or more depending on an individual’s mood cycle.
Bipolar disorder arises from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as traumatic experiences or a family history of psychiatric disorders. Bipolar Disorder can be present in multiple ways, even with the addition of psychosis (e.g. hallucinations or unrealistic thoughts that the individual believes to be true).
Bipolar Disorder: Signs & Symptoms
Family members or close friends of the individual may be able to recognize common signs of bipolar disorders that involve two distinct groups of symptoms.
Major Depressive Episodes: Sadness, Hopelessness, Emptiness
During the first distinct period of time, the individual may often feel a few of the following signs for usually two weeks or more.
- Tearful, lose interest in many activities or events they previously enjoyed
- Have irregular sleep patterns, weight fluctuations, and/or observable restlessness or is fidgety
- Despite no physically visible evidence, the urge to inflict self-harm or even kill him or herself
*During Major Depressive Episodes, it is very important for people who are close to the individual in question, to ask him or her if he or she is thinking about harming himself or herself.
Manic/Hypomanic Episodes: High Self-Esteem/Decreased Need for Sleep
This period of time is separate from a Major Depressive Episode and the individual may experience
- High self-esteem, a decreased need for sleep
- Several thoughts or ideas that are difficult for others to follow
- Increased energy that is different from the individual’s normal experiences
- May partake in risky behaviors, such as drug use, and exhibit excessive, fast-paced talking. These symptoms may be attributed to what we call Manic or Hypomanic Episode.
- Significant impairment in his or her abilities to perform daily tasks, maintain social relationships, or complete work-related duties
Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder:
Fairmount Behavioral Health diagnoses bipolar disorders via the input from multiple sources.
A psychiatrist or psychologist may interview the individual at question and gather historical, biopsychosocial information. This first-hand information is crucial in determining the individual’s level of insight into their own experiences. This insight from the individual at question can shed light on how the individual perceives and interacts with their own world.
Information related to the individual’s social, occupational, academic, physical, psychological, and daily functioning are assessed by these trained mental health professionals.
Family Member Inquiry
If proper consents are completed, these professionals may seek more information about the individual and his or her functioning via family members.
Psychiatric nurses can provide quality observational information about the individual that can inform mental health professionals’ determination of a diagnosis. At times an individual’s clinical presentation may be unclear due to several factors, such as the existence of complicated trauma or substance use; however, formal assessments administered by qualified members of the individual’s treatment team, such as Doctoral Interns in the field of Clinical Psychology, can assist in gathering more information that can aid in accurate diagnosis.
Accurate diagnosis is necessary for Fairmount Behavioral Health to plan interventions and make appropriate recommendations for after-care once the individual leaves the hospital.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder:
Fairmount Behavioral Health utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to treatment for individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Psychiatrists, medical doctors trained in psychopharmaceutical treatments for psychological disorders, work with individuals’ treatment teams consisting of psychotherapists, psychologists, social workers, and psychiatric nurses to tailor treatment to the individuals’ needs.
There are two methods that are used to assist individuals in collaboratively managing their symptoms related to bipolar disorder.
Group psychotherapy can be an opportunity for the individual to address common concerns or challenges that many individuals within the group may face in their lives. These issues may be problem-solved or processed within the group on a more general level. Coping mechanisms may be learned and practiced during group psychotherapy relating to distress tolerance, relaxation training, and interpersonal effectiveness skills. Group cohesion and universality amongst the group members may assist the individual in feeling comforted that others may have similar experiences and hopeful about his or her ability to manage their presenting concerns.
Individual psychotherapy can be an opportunity for the individual to address concerns or experiences he or she may feel uncomfortable sharing in a group setting. The development of a therapeutic relationship on an individual level may assist the client in processing his or her own thoughts and emotions as they relate to his or her specific life experiences.
Common medications used to manage symptoms related to bipolar disorder are known as “mood stabilizers.” Medications, in conjunction with group and individual therapy, have been proven to be the most effective combination of treatment for individuals managing symptoms related to bipolar disorder.
Psychotherapy may assist an individual in developing treatment goals and establishing a better understanding of how bipolar disorder impacts his or her daily functioning. Individuals may develop coping strategies to manage their symptoms and gain new insight into their own abilities to live a meaningful life.
Social workers, and the treatment team, assist individuals in determining and receiving the proper level of care once they are discharged from the hospital to assure quality of care along the continuum of treatment.
If any of these symptoms are causing concern for you, a family member or a friend, please contact Fairmount Behavioral Health to schedule an evaluation at 215.487.4100. You can also visit our Admissions Page for additional information.
Matthew Brigle, M.A.
Doctoral Level Practicum Student