The American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization both define bipolar disorder not as a clearly defined condition, but rather as a spectrum of mood disorders that occur on a continuum of alternating moods. It causes patients to alternate between extremes of mania and depression, but they may also exhibit primarily one or the other, usually depression.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a complex condition that professionals do not fully understand. Patients with bipolar disorder often display depression, so doctors often misdiagnose this condition as simple depression.
However, bipolar disorder differs from simple or unipolar depression in that these bipolar patients also experience manic or hypomanic episodes in which they feel tremendous energy, enthusiasm and maybe even a sense of invincibility. This may not sound that bad on the surface, but patients in manic episodes are prone to irrational behavior and poor choices that can have severe consequences down the road.
The Four Categories of Bipolar Disorder
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are three subtypes of bipolar disorder and one general classification for patients who do not fit the criteria for any of the other three. The subtypes of bipolar disorder are as follows:
- Patients with bipolar I disorder have one or more manic episodes, but a history of depressive episodes are not required to meet this diagnosis
- Bipolar II disorder creates one or more hypomanic episodes (not as extreme as a manic episode) and one or more major depressive episodes. Hypomanic episodes may go undiagnosed since they may appear as periods of high energy with few or no negative consequences. However, patients may experience full mania in the future.
- Cyclothymia is a history of hypomanic episodes that alternate with low grade depression, but it does not meet the criteria for major depressive episodes. This type of bipolar disorder is easily missed or misdiagnosed since it often appears as nothing more than mood swings. However, this type of bipolar disorder can cripple both professional and social functioning.
- Bipolar disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) includes patients who do not meet the criteria for any of the other categories.
All these categories are quite dangerous and will require professional treatment.
Bipolar Disorder Treatment
If you suffer from bipolar disorder it is imperative to receive treatment or you may experience serious and even disastrous consequences. People with bipolar disorder often have difficulty functioning in many areas of life, from work and career to interpersonal relationships. People with bipolar disorder often experience deep bouts of depression and may even consider or attempt suicide.
While it is impossible to recover or be cured of bipolar disorder, different methods can teach patients to manage symptoms to enjoy productive and fulfilling lives. If you would like help finding treatment for bipolar disorder, or if you simply have questions about it and its treatment, call us. Our helpline is toll free and counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer all your questions.