If you have bipolar disorder or symptoms of bipolar disorder, you might feel isolated and alone, but more than two million people in the United States have this condition and it truly can be treated by a bipolar psychiatrist. There is hope, and treatment can help, so here's a quick look at this disease and your treatment options.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
In the past, bipolar disorder was known as manic depression, but that wasn’t a particularly adequate description. Today, the American Psychiatric Association recognizes several diagnoses that fall under the general category of bipolar disorders, including:
Of course, if you have symptoms of bipolar disorder (which we will talk about in a minute), you probably are more concerned with alleviating these symptoms than learning about all of the different types of bipolar disorders. Still, it’s crucial that your bipolar psychiatrist find the best possible diagnosis. Without a proper diagnosis, your treatment plan won’t be as successful.
It's important to note that some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder exist as symptoms of other disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders and ADHD. All of these disorders are treated in different ways, so for treatment to be successful, that proper diagnosis is essential.
In general, most people are diagnosed with the first three bipolar disorders – Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder or Cyclothymic Disorder, so let’s take a look at some of the symptoms associated with each of these.
Bipolar I Disorder
This is the most severe form of this group of mood disorders. People who suffer from this order typically have had at least one severe manic episode. According to the American Psychiatric Association, this episode needs to have lasted for at least a week and includes several symptoms such as a decreased need for sleep, faster speech, racing thoughts, distractibility, increased activity and, often, an increase in risky behaviors. Occasionally, some people even suffer from hallucinations during a manic episode.
People with Bipolar I also might have suffered from hypomanic episodes. These are less severe than the manic episode previously described and tend to last just three or four days. These episodes also don’t tend to cause major daily life problems such as you would experience with a severe manic episode.
Of course, as this disorder used to be called manic depression, a major depressive episode, lasting at least two weeks, is another common sign of Bipolar I. During this episode, the patient might feel intense despair or sadness, feelings of worthlessness, fatigue, increased (or decreased) sleep and appetite, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, slowed speech and frequent thoughts of death or perhaps even suicide.
As with Bipolar I, people diagnosed with this condition must have had at least one major depressive episode and at least hypomanic episode. This is the main difference between these two disorders. With Bipolar I, you will experience at least one extreme manic episode, while Bipolar II usually will have at least one of the less severe hypomanic episodes.
This is a milder form of bipolar disorder, and it can be tricky to diagnose. A person usually will experience brief periods of hypomania (the less severe manic episode) and brief periods of depression. These periods typically only last for a few days at a time, and there may be periods in between where the patient feels generally well.
Because the episodes are brief, many people with this disorder tend to be reluctant to seek help, but as a bipolar psychiatrist, I strongly encourage anyone experiencing any symptoms of any type of bipolar disorder to seek treatment. While severe forms obviously can disrupt your daily life, even mild hypomania and depression can be very upsetting and there’s just no reason to suffer from these disorders if treatment can alleviate the issues.
Finding A Bipolar Psychiatrist
Finding the right psychiatrist is crucial, and these days, with telepsychiatry, it’s easier than ever before. Telemedicine obviously became a crucial service during the pandemic, but providing remote medical services is here to stay. It’s convenient, it’s private and you can select a psychiatrist from just about anywhere in the country.
Whether you need a psychiatrist in Los Angeles or a psychiatrist in Charlotte, NC, or a psychiatrist in a rural area, telepsychiatry allows you to find a doctor that’s a good fit for you. For diseases such as bipolar disorder, finding a psychiatrist is the best first step because, as a medical doctor, we are authorized to prescribe medications, which may be needed as part of your treatment plan. We also can look at any medical issues you might have that could be contributing to your bipolar disorder or simply just making your life less enjoyable. Treating the whole person, mind and body, should be the goal of any psychiatrist.
How Treatment Works
If you’ve tried to find a psychiatrist in the past, you know that sometimes it’s difficult to find a doctor that truly listens to your concerns and provides you with a thorough diagnosis. My strength as a doctor is taking the time to complete a thorough evaluation and this usually takes two or three sessions.
It's important to create a diagnosis that addresses all of the issues you face. For instance, perhaps you have bipolar disorder and an eating disorder. If we treat bipolar disorder but ignore the eating disorder, are you truly going to find peace and happiness? Taking the time to discover all of the issues a person is facing is the only way to determine the correct diagnoses for that patient.
Additionally, as stated above, other disorders can mimic symptoms that often are seen with bipolar disorder. These disorders don’t necessarily follow the same treatment plan you might use with bipolar disorder, so arriving at that exact diagnosis is a huge first step toward helping you find a successful treatment plan.
With bipolar disorder, medication often can be helpful. It is important, however, for patients to understand that finding the ideal medication and the correct dosage can take some time. We also don’t recommend simply relying on medication. Different types of therapy also will be needed, and psychiatrists can recommend the type of therapy that you might need, but typically you will need to find a psychologist or therapist for those services.
People with bipolar disorder also can create a daily routine that helps them better manage this disorder. Creating a daily routine can help you better manage your mood as it makes you feel more secure and reduces stress. Daily exercise also can be a huge help for people with bipolar disorder, and we also recommend eating a healthy diet.
Bipolar disorder can make it difficult to handle stress, and activities such as yoga and meditation are helpful. Setting a sleep schedule also can be particularly important for people with bipolar disorder. To be honest, these tips are good advice for all of us, whether we have bipolar disorder, OCD, ADHD or no mental health issues at all.
To wrap up, an effective treatment plan includes a proper diagnosis and a combination of medication (usually), therapy and a well-planned daily routine. When all of this is in place, bipolar disorder can be managed. Many people with bipolar disorder feel very helpless, but this disease is treatable. There is hope, and I highly encourage you to seek help as soon as possible to improve your quality of life.
As a bipolar psychiatrist, I offer in-person and telepsychiatry services. I also can treat many other disorders, including ADHD, depression, anxiety, OCD and even drug and alcohol addiction. Whether you need a psychiatrist in Los Angeles, a psychiatrist in Charlotte, NC or anywhere else in the country, telepsychiatry makes it easier to get the help you need. Don’t suffer another day, please give my office a call and let’s create a treatment plan that works for you.
Dr Jesalva is a psychiatrist. He is in private practice in Thousand Oaks, CA since 1989. He successfully treats very challenging patients with varying co-occurring disorders with medications.