Have you been diagnosed with bipolar disorder?
If you or someone you love is bipolar, you know all too well the challenges of day to day life with this frustrating and potentially debilitating condition of mental health.
It’s possible, however, that you’re reading this article because you did a Google search on “bipolar disorder” and are curious to find out more – and/or maybe be wondering whether you are bipolar.
This is not one of those quizzes that supposedly “diagnose” whether you’re bipolar.
Don’t take those quizzes.
In this article we’ll talk about the nature of bipolar disorder, what it means to be bipolar, and how to live your best life within the constraints and challenges of a bipolar reality.
Bipolar Disorder: What It Is, How It Manifests
Bipolar disorder, once known as “manic depression,” is a condition that accurately reflects its name today.
This is a mental health disorder recognized worldwide by psychological and psychiatric professionals.
People with bipolar disorder experience “swings” or “shifts” in mood, feeling and behaviour that can be quite drastic. As a visual depiction would suggest, life with bipolar disorder means experiencing rapid movement between extreme highs and extreme lows – veritable roller coaster that makes life challenging for those afflicted with bipolar disorder as well as their family and friends.
People with bipolar disorder often have difficulty living life “in the middle” or finding a “happy medium” that is free of the episodic highs and lows.
Many people, sadly, go through life – or well into it, anyhow – without knowing that they are bipolar. Or, to be more accurate: They know that “something isn’t quite right” but have not been professionally diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?
The DSM 5 categorizes bipolar disorder as:
“Brain disorders that cause changes in a person’s mood, energy and ability to function.”
People with bipolar disorder experience:
- Mood episodes
- Extreme and intense emotional states
- Depressive or “sad” episodes
- Euphoric or “high” episodes
Further, the profession now breaks bipolar disorder into two distinct types.
Bipolar I Disorder
The first type of bipolar disorder is experienced or witnessed with dramatic mood swings.
These moods swings are seen as:
- Major depressive episodes
- Manic episodes
- Hypomanic episodes
In major depressive episodes, a person with bipolar disorder experiences and/or displays a series of symptoms that are not, in and of themselves, dissimilar to clinical depression.
These episodes can include changes in appetite, feelings of worthlessness or low self esteem, deep sadness, “dark” periods, loss of interest in things that would otherwise be enjoyed, and much more.
The primary difference between clinical depression and bipolar disorder’s major depressive episodes, however, is that these episodes tend to be temporary, and are experienced in swings going from high to low and then back to high again.
That’s the vicious circle of bipolar disorder.
On the “high side” are manic episodes and hypomanic episodes.
Manic episodes include
- Racing thoughts
- Talking a lot, quickly, reflecting manic thoughts
- Frequent distraction
- Delusions of grandeur
- Risky behaviour
As you can imagine, while there can be a “productive” side to these manic episodes, it can also run off the rails quickly and be debilitating.
Hypomanic episodes are similar in to the above, only they tend to be shorter in duration and less intense.
Bipolar II Disorder
Bipolar II Disorder tends to have mood swings that are less severe than its Bipolar I sister.
This is not to say that Bipolar II Disorder is not serious – it most certainly is.
Bipolar II Disorder entails having mild to moderate episodes of hypomania alternating with swings of moderate to severe depression.
While the “roller coaster” may not be as extreme, Bipolar II Disorder must be addressed so that the bipolar person can live their best life.
The Sad Reality Faced by Bipolar People in Today’s Society
Making matters worse for those with bipolar disorder, society has not fully come to terms with what bipolar disorder is – and isn’t.
These and other derogatory terms are thrown carelessly and callously at people who suffer from bipolar disorder.
Sadly, bipolar people don’t mean to do what they do.
It is not their intent to cause “drama” in their life – and in the lives of family and friends.
They do not desire to have the intense swings that are hallmark of bipolar disorder. In reality, people with bipolar disorder would like nothing more than to lead a “normal” (whatever that is!), healthy, productive life.
The challenge lies in finding ways to do so.
How to Live Your Best Life with Bipolar Disorder
Having bipolar disorder does not have to be a life sentence to misery and sorrow.
The first step to overcoming the (very real) challenges posed by bipolar disorder is to seek professional diagnosis.
There really is no substitute for this.
While you may have seen “online quizzes” and similar self-assessment tools that dangle the temptation of ‘quick results’ (and an implicit ‘easy fix’) – there are no shortcuts.
The way to get through bipolar disorder involves doing the work.
At Capital Choice Counselling, we offer a network of highly qualified, experienced and caring therapists and counsellors, many of whom specializing in treating patients with bipolar disorder.
If you are located in the National Capital Region, we offer counsellors in Ottawa for bipolar disorder treatment.
No matter where you are located, however, we now offer bipolar disorder counselling via online therapy and remote counselling.
Through a series of sessions with your counsellor, you will receive a professional diagnosis for bipolar disorder (Bipolar I Disorder or Bipolar II Disorder) – or diagnosis of another mental health condition.
You will then embark on a journey of sessions and homework that centre around finding ways to overcome the challenges you face with bipolar disorder.
To find out more about how this process works:
- Go to the menu at the top of this page
- Select ‘Our Counsellors by Expertise”
- Choose “Online Counsellors”
- Then find a counsellor or therapist from there
At Capital Choice Counselling we’re here when you need us. Don’t hesitate to be in touch.