Each of us has changes in our moods. When these changes become so severe that they are affecting our daily living, it is time to ask for help. Approximately 26% of Americans ages 18 and older, about 1 in 4 adults, suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder. (1)
What is Bipolar Depression?
Bipolar depression is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood from extreme lows to extreme highs.
Some Extreme lows of Bipolar Depression are:
- Hopelessness– No expectation of future improvement or success
- Irritability– Disturbed, edgy mood. The onset of becoming angry
- Fatigue– Feeling exhausted and sleeping excessively
- Crying– In response to an emotional state.
- Self-Harm– Cutting yourself, punching things, pulling out your hair, or bruising yourself
Examples of highs or manic symptoms are:
- Unexplained Hyperactivity– Inability to sit still, being easily distracted, or talking excessively
- Paranoia– Unwarranted jealousy, mistrust, and defensive attitude in response to perceived criticism.
- A decreased need for sleep.
- Impulsive behavior.
- Participate in risky behaviors without concern for consequences.
Severe forms of bipolar depression are Bipolar I and Bipolar II
Bipolar I is indicated by manic episodes (mania) lasting at least a week and may become psychotic and require hospitalization. These episodes are followed by extreme episodes of depression that last weeks.
Bipolar II involves episodes of severe depression. Unlike Bipolar I, it does not present warning signs of mania however, one or more episodes must be experienced in a lifetime. (2)
The first step is to determine if you have bipolar depression is evaluation
Your doctor may do a physical exam and lab tests to identify any medical problems that could be causing your symptoms. The next step is usually an evaluation by a psychiatrist. They will talk to you about your thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns. You may also fill out a psychological self-assessment or questionnaire. With your permission, family members or close friends may be asked to provide information about your symptoms.
Mood charting is also an effective therapeutic tool. You may be asked to keep a daily record of your moods, sleep patterns or other factors that could help with diagnosis and finding the right treatment. Bipolar depression is a lifelong condition. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of bipolar depression are important to manage them.
Treatment options include:
You may need to start taking medications to balance your moods right away. Bipolar depression often requires lifelong treatment with medications, even during periods when you feel better. People who skip maintenance treatment are at high risk of a relapse of symptoms or having minor mood changes turn into full-blown mania or depression.
Your doctor may recommend a day treatment program to help you get symptoms under control.
Substance Abuse Treatment
If you have problems with alcohol or drugs, you will need substance abuse treatment as well. Ideally, a dual-diagnosis program equipped to treat co-occurring disorders.
Inpatient or Hospitalization
Your doctor may recommend inpatient care or hospitalization if you are behaving dangerously, you feel suicidal or you become detached from reality (psychotic). An inpatient or partial hospitalization stay can also be helpful if you need to remove yourself from a toxic environment.
Self-diagnosis is not safe or accurate. Do not be afraid to ask for help.