man looking at sunset bipolar disorder

Bipolar Disorder: Manic vs. Depressive Episodes

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Dr. Jason Stahl, PsyD, LPCC, Outpatient Therapist  Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that severely impacts someone’s mood, thoughts, and behavior. Bipolar disorder is different for each person, however, it will always involve emotional shifts. Those emotional shifts are characterized by periods of mania and/or depression. Some may have mostly depressed states, and others mostly manic. While there are several types of bipolar, in this article, we are going to focus on the symptoms of manic and depressive episodes. More information on the differences between the types of bipolar can be found here.   

Early Treatment is Crucial 

Like any mental illness, getting treatment early on is most beneficial. However, the nature of bipolar disorder makes prompt treatment even more critical. Since bipolar includes manic and depressive episodes, left untreated - individuals are more likely to self-medicate with substances to control whichever episode is occurring. For instance, if they are experiencing mania, they may utilize alcohol to lower their mood. In addition, if they are experiencing a depressive state, they may rely on certain drugs to try to balance their emotions. In short, using these methods often leads to addiction and does more harm than good.   While it can be frustrating if you are experiencing bipolar disorder, there are solutions. The first step is becoming knowledgeable about the signs and symptoms along with understanding the importance of treatment. Dr. Jason Stahl, Outpatient Therapist at Nystrom & Associates, explains just how paramount early intervention is:  
While only about 1.6% of the population in the USA will experience Bipolar I or Bipolar II Disorder in a given year, early detection and treatment are critically important. The vast majority of those individuals will continue to experience mood episodes. The typical age of onset for bipolar disorders is in the late teens to early twenties making it, oftentimes, a chronic condition. With early treatment, both medication and therapeutic interventions are much more effective and the symptoms are typically easier to manage.
Related: 5 Ways to Prevent Substance Abuse 

Manic Episodes 

While people without bipolar experience “highs and lows” in their mood, the changes in mood caused by bipolar disorder are quite different. Their changes in mood can affect their work and school performance, relationships, and wellbeing.   While experiencing mania, or a “high” mood, people may: 
  • Have a sense of intense joy, excitement, or euphoria 
  • Feel very “up,” “high,” elated, or irritable or touchy 
  • Have little need for sleep 
  • Take on more new projects than one can handle
  • Feel “jumpy” or “wired” 
  • Participate in impulsive or high-risk behaviors like gambling or spending sprees, unsafe sex, or making unwise investments 
  • Talk very fast about many different things 
Some people with bipolar can experience hypomania. Hypomania is less severe than mania. While mania could potentially lead to hospitalization, hypomania will (in most cases) not heavily impact a person’s life.   Related: What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder? 

Depressive Episodes

Depressive episodes present in bipolar disorder are often confused with depression since many symptoms overlap. However, the key difference is that depression does not include symptoms of mania. During a depressive episode, people may: 
  • Have problems with concentration, decision-making, or forgetfulness 
  • Feel slowed down or restless 
  • Experience significant weight loss (when not dieting), weight gain, and/or changes in appetite 
  • Feel fatigued or have a loss of energy nearly every day 
  • Have feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt 
  • Experience suicidal ideation or a suicide attempt 
  • Have difficulty falling asleep, or sleeping too much 
  • Talk very slowly, feel like they have nothing to say, forget a lot 
An episode with mixed features is when both manic and depressive symptoms appear. It’s possible for them to be energized while at the same time, experience feelings of emptiness or hopelessness.   A Word From Nystrom & Associates  In conclusion, if you think that you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, don’t wait to find out. Prompt treatment is crucial in managing the effects of bipolar. Above all, please know that there is hope and help is available. There are resources for accurate diagnoses and professional treatment. If you're struggling, reach out to Nystrom & Associates today to schedule an appointment at one of our 35+ convenient clinic locations.   Want more information on bipolar disorder? Click here  Related: What Are Mental Health Days? 

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