As bipolar disorder affects millions of Americans, you may wonder if a loved one is suffering from the chronic mental health condition. Perhaps your most recent depressive mood or signs of bipolar behavior have left you questioning if it is an indicator of a more serious problem.
You may question the behavior with, “Why can’t I snap out of it?” or “They should just get over it already.” Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to qualify the grip of bipolar disorder.
The Basics of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is more than the average depression everyone feels at some point or the overly happiness we feel at a celebration or achievement. The highs and lows from bipolar behavior are extreme and can last weeks, months, and sometimes years. Some bipolar patients may only feel “normal” for short periods of time. A new behavioral state may appear quickly after the end of the previous one.
When a patient experiences these highs and lows, it is referred to as a manic state or depressive state, respectively. Both states can affect a person’s mood (think extreme mood swings), thought processes, and energy level. Patients with rapid changes between the two states are known to have manic depressive states or episodes. Without the appropriate treatment, bipolar behavior can destroy relationships, deteriorate the individual’s health, and/or endanger their job.
Physicians and researchers are not completely convinced of why certain patients develop bipolar disorder while others never show any symptoms. Some patients hold a potentially higher risk for the behavior if one of their parents was bipolar, but this isn’t true for all offspring. Early childhood trauma or stress may play a role, but again this is not absolute.
As researchers continue to study and learn more about bipolar behavior, they’ve identified certain symptoms that are indicative of the disorder.
Signs of Bipolar Behavior
In some cases, the bipolar disorder appears in an individual’s early years. However, for the most part, patients begin to experience bipolar behavior as a young adult.
- Unpredictable behavior. A manic state may lead an individual to indulge in high risk-taking behaviors, substance and/or alcohol abuse, speeding, or shoplifting. They are typically not interested in the negative consequences of these actions.
- Abnormal sleeping patterns. Manic behavior may keep the patient from being able to settle down and sleep. On the opposite end of the bipolar spectrum, those suffering from depressive behavior may sleep for too many hours and still feel tired.
- Loss of appetite. Many people lose interest in eating during a depressive episode with absolutely no appetite. Self-care and hygiene may also go by the wayside during this time.
- Overconsumption of food. Manic and manic-depressive states can bring on overconsumption of food with bingeing, purging, and other unhealthy eating behaviors. Eating disorders may manifest during this period.
- Unhealthy sexual behavior. As part of the risk-taking behaviors, manic behavior patients may seek out pleasure and acceptance from more than one partner. Young adults may choose to indulge in experimentation while experiencing the “high-highs” of bipolar disorder.
- Unable to get out of bed. Depressive episodes drain the person’s energy and make it nearly impossible for them to pull themselves out of bed, let alone go to work or social events. Hobbies and other interests are typically dropped while in a depressive state.
- Difficulty concentrating. Whether in manic or depressive states, or a combination of the two, an individual may have difficulty focusing their thoughts or completing complicated tasks. Their thoughts may race too quickly for them to coherently form, or they may wander off into tangents and be unable to resume the conversation successfully.
- Overwhelming feelings of guilt or hopelessness. A patient with bipolar disorder swings on the highs and lows of their emotions and are typically unable to cope with extremes on their own without strategies in place. Feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, and abandonment may feel insurmountable.
- Hallucinations and/or delusions. Similar to schizophrenia, bipolar patients may experience hallucinations, delusions, or other psychotic symptoms. It’s critical that your mental healthcare professional rules out schizophrenia and other conditions before treating you for bipolar disorder.
- Suicidal thoughts. Perhaps the most dangerous of all of the bipolar symptoms are suicidal thoughts. Suicidal behavior can appear in the manic state as well as the depressive state, as manic-depressive episodes contribute to unpredictable behavior.
How Bipolar Disorder Affects Relationships
Bipolar disorder can lead to irreparable relationships. The impulsive behaviors of the manic state can lead to extramarital affairs, lies, gambling, shoplifting, and other risky behaviors. During the manic behavior, the patient may not have any regard to the feelings of others, including their spouse, children, or parents. The extreme mood swings can lead to violent confrontations over inconsequential issues.
Patients in a depressive episode may not be able to pull any energy out of themselves to give to their family. This can lead to family members who feel neglected and abandoned. Children may feel isolated if they can’t invite friends over because of an unkempt home due to a parent’s bipolar behavior. Spouses may turn to others for attention or spend more time at work to avoid a confrontation.
A bipolar patient’s job and career may take a downward turn if the manic behavior disrupts the workplace. Common issues include outbursts, uncontrolled anger, or physical or verbal confrontations. During a depressive episode, the patient may need to take too many “sick days” which can cause undue stress on their colleagues.
How Bipolar Disorder is Diagnosed in Adults
Physicians are careful when diagnosing bipolar disorder as there are not any current brain scans to verify the condition. In order for a bipolar patient to receive treatment, they must have experienced a manic state at least once or a depressive state for at least two weeks or hospitalized for the depressive or manic behavior.
There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but you can find ways to manage the symptoms. All of the manic-depressive behaviors mentioned above can be alleviated by counseling, medications, psychotherapy, coping strategies, and routines.
Prescription medications including mood stabilizers can balance the patient’s mood swings allowing them to normalize a routine at home and at work. Counseling will enable the patient to work through any blocks and adopt coping strategies like prayer and meditation during an episode.
Finding Help for Signs of Bipolar Behavior
If you or a loved one are struggling with signs of bipolar behavior, manic behavior, or recurring deep depression, consult a mental healthcare professional. Mental health has slowly moved from its past stigma to acceptance, including Christian circles, as treatments have progressed.
You may need a doctor’s order to be seen for specialized care, but following a mental health care plan made specifically for you and your particular condition will lead to a higher quality of life. If either you or your loved one with bipolar is a senior citizen, you may be able to locate resources to help with paying for mental health treatment, prescription medications like mood stabilizers, or transportation to and from the treatment center.
You may also find group counseling to be a better alternative in terms of financial responsibility and therapy. Discussing the condition and coping strategies with others can lead to breakthroughs, new ideas for routines, and a feeling of acceptance, especially if you have previously isolated yourself due to a depressive state.
You may find that family counseling brings you one step closer to repairing the important relationships in your life. Depending on the counseling center, you may be able to work with your spouse and children to discover breakthroughs and understanding for all family members.
Speak to your mental health counselor about who should attend your sessions and what the expectations are during the therapy. Remember to take it slow and choose the best treatment option for you and your specific bipolar condition and symptoms.
Although as mentioned earlier, there is no cure for bipolar disorder, more people are finding they can lead average lives while navigating their emotions with techniques. Ask for referrals from people you trust like your primary physician, pastor, or another professional in healthcare.
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