Bipolar Disorder: Uncommon highs and extreme lows


Brighter Tomorrows

By F. Keith Davis

Logan Mingo Area Mental Health

Bipolar Disorder is a serious mental health illness. It is essentially a reoccurring condition involving fluctuating moods – shifting between the highs of mania and the lows of depression. It is often described as mood disorder that carries with it a psychiatric diagnosis; and specialists report depression as being a prevalent feature of the illness. On the manic side of the gamut, it is common for the patient to exhibit an undesirable mixture of anger, ill temperedness, and depression (with or without a level of exhilaration). The euphoria may present itself as uncommon energy and overconfidence.

Perhaps you know someone who has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder—maybe even a family member. The condition is most often documented in young adulthood, but there are some occasions when Bipolar Disorder shows itself in small children or adolescents. It can easily be misdiagnosed, so it is imperative that a thorough assessment take place by a mental health professional.

Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, a specialist on the subject, explains, “Biological factors probably create vulnerability to the disorder, and experiences such as sleep deprivation can kick off manic episodes.” He further added that while the depression display associated with Bipolar Disorder can resist treatment, the mood fluctuations and setbacks can often be delayed (or prevented) with a mood stabilizer, or a stabilizer combined with other medications. Individualized counseling is an important treatment component that can benefit the patient, as well.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), a manic episode is diagnosed if an elevated mood occurs with three or more primary symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least one week. With an irritable mood, four additional symptoms must be present for a diagnosis:

• Increased energy, activity, and restlessness

• Excessively “high,” overly good, euphoric mood

• Extreme irritability

• Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another

• Distractibility, can’t concentrate well

• Little sleep needed

• Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers

• Poor judgment

• Spending sprees

• A lasting period of behavior that is different from usual

• Increased sexual drive

• Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications

• Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior

• Denial that anything is wrong

Dr. Borenstein states, “During such manic phases, people may experience increased energy, less need to sleep, and sometimes delusions—some people who are manic actually believe they can fly or have other super powers. During this phase of the disorder, people often make rash decisions and do things that get them into trouble, such as spending too much money or being sexually promiscuous …”

In contrast, a depressive episode is diagnosed if five or more primary depressive symptoms last most of the day, nearly every day, for a period of two weeks or longer. The ADAA explains that the signs and indicators of a depressive episode can include the following:

• Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood

• Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism

• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

• Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex

• Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being “slowed down”

• Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions

• Restlessness or irritability

• Sleeping too much, or can’t sleep

• Change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain

• Chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical illness or injury

• Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

Data now proves that nearly 2.3 million Americans suffer from the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. So, it’s probable that you know someone suffering from the disorder, perhaps even a loved one. If you, or a family member, are experiencing some of these primary symptoms, call your local mental health agency for a comprehensive assessment. Effective treatment is available.

For additional information somehow about today’s column, contact the new Logan Mingo Area Mental Health (LMAMH) at (304) 792-7130, where walk-ins are always welcome and intake assessments are available on-site. At LMAMH, counselors, doctors, caseworkers, and other professionals are on duty to help you. Listen for our radio show, Brighter Tomorrows, on WVOW-FM 101.9 at 10 a.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday every month. We want to be the First Choice in mental health services.

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