If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, finding a psychiatrist specializing in bipolar disorder can be the first step toward an easier, happier life. There are many treatment options available, and while it can take time to find the best options for you, help is available, and treatment can be successful. Let’s take a look at this illness and share some tips that can help you manage this condition.
Bipolar Disorder Is Stigmatize
Bipolar disorder tends to be one of the most misunderstood psychiatric disorders, often portrayed unrealistically in TV shows and movies. One of the biggest misconceptions is that people with this illness are dangerous and violent, although this is rarely the case.
Typically, when a person with bipolar disorder exhibits violent or aggressive behavior, there are many factors in play, such as childhood trauma, that feed into that behavior and it's not simply caused entirely by bipolar disorder. Additionally, these issues tend to manifest far more in patients with untreated bipolar disorder. When treated, people with bipolar disorder are no more violent than anyone else in the general population.
It's also important to understand that people with bipolar disorder are not always experiencing either mania or depression. When well-controlled, a person may not experience any severe symptoms at all. That’s perhaps the most important fact about bipolar disorder to understand – treatment can be successful and people with bipolar disorder can enjoy a successful, fulfilling life. But, there’s no one size fits all treatment, so it can take time to create a plan that truly helps reduce your symptoms and allows you to live a better life.
What Is Bipolar Disorder
There are several types of bipolar disorder, which is classified as a mood disorder. Symptoms of bipolar disorder vary based on the type of bipolar disorder you have, but people often will experience these symptoms differently.
In general, mood and energy levels are affected to some extent with any type of this disease, often severely. Mood stabilizers and other medications often are prescribed to reduce these symptoms; however, bipolar disorder treatment also should include additional types of therapy.
Bipolar I Disorder
With a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder, the patient will experience both severe episodes of mania and depression. The manic episodes will last at least a week, while the depressive episodes will last at least two weeks. A diagnosis of Bipolar I also can be made if these episodes were shorter in length but required hospitalization.
There also may be episodes of hypomania, which is a milder type of mania. In some cases, a patient with Bipolar I also will experience symptoms of psychosis, such as confusion, delusions and even hallucinations.
Bipolar II Disorder
With this type of bipolar disorder, a patient will experience the same long periods of depression, but without the manic episodes, although they do typically experience some hypomanic episodes. In general, most people with Bipolar II will not experience psychosis or extreme mania as this is generally milder than Bipolar I.
This is the mildest form of this mood disorder, but it still can cause brief episodes of hypomania and mild depression that can be quite upsetting. If you experience mood swings that seem more severe than others, cyclothymic disorder is a possible diagnosis, especially if these mood swings continue for at least two years. Typically, people with this disorder will only have brief periods where they experience normal moods.
5 Tips For People With Bipolar Disorder
1. Find A Specialist
Ok, easier said than done, right? Most of my patients with bipolar disorder have seen a myriad of psychiatrists specializing in bipolar disorder, not to mention psychologists, therapists and other health professionals. It can be tough to find a psychiatrist with whom you feel comfortable and to find a doctor that truly meets your needs.
However, these days, with telepsychiatry, you do have more options than ever before. In the past, we were often limited to finding that elusive “psychiatrist near me,” but an online psychiatrist can provide you with comprehensive treatment and the best part is that you can meet with your doctor anywhere you have an internet connection.
With bipolar disorder, you do need to find a psychiatrist and not just a psychologist or therapist. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, and they can assess all of your health issues and determine if any physical health conditions are impacting your mental health. They are also the only mental health professionals that can prescribe medication, which can be a highly successful treatment option for people with bipolar disorder.
That said, I highly recommend that you also find a psychologist or therapist that specializes in bipolar disorder. Talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and other therapies can greatly reduce symptoms and help you better manage your life. A combination of medication and therapy tends to yield the best long-term results for any mental health condition.
2. Be Honest With Your Provider
Trust me, your bipolar disorder psychiatrist has heard it all so there is no reason not to share all of the symptoms you are experiencing. It’s also crucial that you share everything with your doctor so that they can provide you with the most accurate diagnosis. After all, many people with bipolar disorder have co-occurring disorders and we need to treat everything, not just bipolar disorder.
For instance, if you have an anxiety disorder or ADHD and bipolar disorder, both of which are quite common, we need to be careful about any medications that are used. There are ways to treat all of these disorders concurrently, but we need to diagnose them properly to find the best treatment.
I am often asked how often does ADHD co-occur with bipolar disorder? Some studies suggest that as many as 1 in 6 people diagnosed with bipolar disorder also have ADHD. ADHD symptoms can be similar to some bipolar symptoms, so we need to be very careful during the diagnostic phase to ensure that we know precisely which disorders a patient is experiencing.
When it comes to anxiety disorders, some studies suggest more than 40% of people with bipolar disorder also suffer from an anxiety disorder. I also find that many people with bipolar disorder suffer from addiction disorders, often as a result of trying to sort of self-medicate and reduce their symptoms. All of this needs to be addressed during treatment.
3. Stay Active & Eat Healthy
Regular physical activity and a balanced diet can help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Exercise has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety and improve mood. Similarly, a healthy diet can support overall well-being and energy levels. Avoiding alcohol and drugs also are crucial as these can interact dangerously with your medications or trigger and exacerbate mood episodes.
While a consistent daily routine will not cure bipolar disorder, it can be helpful to create a workable, easy daily schedule. Don’t try to pile too much on your plate, so to speak and create a restful nighttime routine that allows you the best chance of enjoying a good night’s sleep. It’s also smart to keep a daily mood journal. Track your sleep patterns, as well, as sleep disruptions can lead to a manic or depressive episode.
4. Join A Support Group
You are not alone! Many people have bipolar disorder, and it can be great to talk to others with this disorder. Not only will you feel less isolated, you will likely find it beneficial to share your experiences and will probably find some good strategies to help you cope with bipolar disorder.
If you are the loved one of someone with bipolar disorder, I recommend educating yourself about this disorder and also perhaps seeking support as a caregiver. Both people with this disease and those that love and care for them need support!
5. Take Your Medications & As Prescribed
Medications can greatly reduce or even eliminate symptoms of bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, once those symptoms abate, many patients decide now that they feel better, they don’t need to take their medication.
Bipolar disorder is a chronic disease, and that means it’s always there, it’s simply being controlled by medication. Let’s compare it to asthma for a minute. This is also a chronic disease but when controlled by medication, the symptoms often go away. However, this doesn’t mean a person should stop treatment. Once you quit using your daily asthma meds, the symptoms will simply reappear.
It's just the same with bipolar disorder except that while it can be relatively easy to get your asthma back under control, it’s not nearly as easy to get bipolar disorder back under control. Additionally, with some bipolar medications, you cannot simply just stop using them, you must gradually taper off these medications.
Taking your daily medications and taking them exactly as prescribed is always the best option. If you do have concerns about your medications, contact your psychiatrist and discuss these concerns with them. They may be able to adjust the dosage or try a different medication, but it is never a good idea to simply stop taking your meds or alter the amount of your meds without professional medical advice.
Call Dr. Jesalva Today
If you need a psychiatrist specializing in bipolar disorder, I am always here to help and I offer telepsychiatry services. I also work as an anxiety psychiatrist, depression psychiatrist, addiction psychiatrist and can treat PTSD and other co-occurring disorders you may be facing. Don’t suffer another day with bipolar disorder, help is out there, and treatment can be successful. We will work together to come up with a treatment plan that truly transforms and improves your life.
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.