Having a mental illness is actually quite common in the United States, despite the judgment that most people have towards someone with a mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 26.2 of American adults have been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Furthermore, it’s also very common that those with a mental illness also have a substance abuse addiction. It’s common for those who experience difficult mental health symptoms to turn to drinking or drug use as a way to cope.
This is particularly true with Bipolar Disorder. This mental illness affects approximately 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. Bipolar Disorder is characterized by the swing of moods between mania and depression. Euphoria, elation, racing thoughts, irritability, and substance use are common symptoms of mania. Some individuals will also engage in forms of self-harm, such as cutting or risky behavior as a way to take away their emotional pain and accelerate the highs. When feeling low or depressed, the symptoms of depression to look for are decreased energy, insomnia, fatigue, agitation, and suicidal thoughts.
More specifically, here are the signs and symptoms that an individual with Bipolar Disorder might exhibit:
- Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
- Excessively “high”, euphoric mood
- Extreme irritability
- Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to the other
- Distractibility – an inability to concentrate
- Unrealistic beliefs about one’s abilities
- Poor judgment
- Spending sprees
- Increased sex drive
- Little sleep
- Intrusive, or aggressive behavior
- Denial that anything is wrong
- Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Loss of interest in sexual activity
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Difficulty making decisions, concentrating or focusing
- Difficulty in memory
- Restlessness or irritability
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Suicidal ideation.
Behavioral Patterns with Bipolar Disorder
Furthermore, those with Bipolar Disorder tend to display the following behavioral patterns:
- Avoiding real or imagined abandonment resulting from a belief in unworthiness or self-rejection
- Having relationships that are unstable with significant idealization or devaluing
- An inability to maintain a stable sense of self, with tendencies of self-loathing, self-hatred, and an inability to be who they are among friends.
- Dangerous and impulsive behavior, such as drug use, frequent experiences of unsafe sex, or running away from home
- Self-harming behavior, such as cutting
- Mood swings from depressive symptoms to those of mania.
- Chronically feeling empty, lonely, or bored and often compensated by impulsivity and dangerous behavior
- Inability to regulate feelings of anger
- Signs of dissociation with reality
If you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms, the most important step you can take is to seek the assistance of a mental health professional. He or she can assess the symptoms, gather mental health history, medical history, and other necessary information, and from there make a diagnosis.
Typically, Bipolar Disorder is classified in two ways. An individual with Bipolar Disorder will be diagnosed as having either Type 1 or Type 2.
Bipolar I –This first type of Bipolar, also known as Bipolar I, includes one or more distinct periods of mania, and could also include a mixed period. For instance, if there is a period of mania, there might also be features of depression and if there is a period of depression, there might also be features of mania.
Bipolar II – The second type of Bipolar is characterized by at least one episode of hypomania and at least one episode of depression. This diagnosis can be made only if the individual has not ever experienced a period of mania. Hypomania is an episode of that is less severe than a full episode of mania. Treatment for Bipolar Disorder might include medication and psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, life skills training, psycho-education, and hospitalization, if necessary.
Once a diagnosis is made, everything else – medication, therapy, interventions, and treatment in general – can follow.