People with bipolar disorder can have highs and lows that come in waves. Sometimes the episodes last for weeks or months, while others go on for only a few hours. Often, mood changes are so severe that they disrupt daily life. People with bipolar disorder can also be at risk for a number of other problems, including suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
The first step to feeling better is getting help. If you or someone you know has symptoms of bipolar, try to connect with a therapist as soon as possible.
A therapist can offer support and guidance, and teach you to spot the signs of an episode before it starts. They can also help you develop a routine that helps minimize mood fluctuations, such as eating regular meals and getting enough sleep.
Your therapist can also work with you to identify triggers, like stress or alcohol and drug misuse. They can also teach you coping skills, so you can respond to an episode before it gets out of control. They may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches you to challenge negative thoughts and behaviors during an episode. They can also help you learn to manage relationships with friends and family members.
Most people with bipolar disorder are prescribed medicines to stabilise their mood. The types of medicines can vary, but include mood stabilisers and antipsychotics. Some doctors may also prescribe electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which uses electrical pulses to induce a brief seizure, as an emergency treatment for severe depression or psychosis. They may also recommend repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which uses magnetic waves to stimulate certain brain areas during a series of treatment sessions, as an alternative to ECT.
Psychiatrists can diagnose bipolar disorder by taking your medical history and asking questions about your moods, behaviors and past episodes. They can also ask about your family history, because genes play a role in developing the condition. People with one or both parents who have the disorder are more likely to have it, as are those who had a relative who suffered from depression or mania. Psychiatrists can also diagnose bipolar disorder by taking blood samples to check your hormone levels.
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. But, with treatment and support, most people can live a full and happy life.
It takes time to find the right treatments for your moods, and you may have some setbacks along the way. But remember that it’s OK to feel frustrated sometimes, and treat yourself with compassion. Remember that bipolar disorder didn’t happen by choice, and it’s not your fault.