Bipolar Disorder and Cyclothymia

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What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a form of mental illness which causes dramatic changes in mood, emotions and the ability to think clearly. Someone with bipolar disorder will experience alternating periods of mania and depression. These periods are far more intense and long-lasting than the ordinary ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ most people experience. They often disrupt daily life and can make relationships, work and school difficult. Without proper treatment, Bipolar I Disorder patients especially, find daily living quite challenging. There are three major types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I Disorder is the type most people are familiar with.

Bipolar I Disorder is characterized with manic episodes which last at least a week interspersed with depressive episodes which usually last 2 weeks or more. A person with Bipolar I Disorder will often require hospital care during a manic episode. Their behavior during mania can be extreme and erratic making them a potential danger to themselves or others at times. Medication compliance is absolutely essential to managing Bipolar I Disorder properly. Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia) is another form of bipolar disorder which is less well-known. It is defined by hypomanic symptoms as well as depressive symptoms which last for at least 2 years. These symptoms are also less severe than they appear in patients with Bipolar I Disorder.

The 3 Primary Types of Bipolar Disorder are:

  • Bipolar I Disorder
  • Bipolar II Disorder
  • Cyclothymic Disorder

Bipolar I Disorder

Of the three major types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I Disorder is the type most people are familiar with. Bipolar I Disorder is characterized with manic episodes which last at least a week. These instances are often so severe that hospitalization is necessary to stabilize the patient. A person experiencing mania will have racing thoughts and seemingly limitless energy and enthusiasm. They may seem giddy or irrationally happy or tense and irritable or a combination of the two. They may fall into feelings of grandiosity that can appear delusional.

Anyone who knows a person with this form of bipolar disorder who has seen them in mania without medication can’t help but recognize the signs. The person may go off on wild tangents or talk rapidly for hours about some elaborate and complex money-making scheme they’ve dreamed up, for example. These periods of mania are separated by depressive episodes which usually last 2 weeks or more. During the depressive periods, the person with bipolar disorder swings to the opposite end of the spectrum. Deep depression and ennui sets in.

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They are plagued by negative, pessimistic thinking and a profound lack of energy or will. It’s not unusual for someone in a depressive episode to refuse to leave the house for days or even weeks or stay in bed for days at a time. People with this type of bipolar disorder can live happy, healthy, productive lives with the right treatment, however. Medication compliance is absolutely essential to managing Bipolar I Disorder properly. When a person with this form of bipolar disorder runs into problems it is almost always because they have not been taking their medication as prescribed. It’s impossible to overstate how important med compliance is for Bipolar I patients.

Bipolar II Disorder

This Bipolar Disorder is lesser known and notoriously tricky to diagnose. Depressive episodes and hypomanic symptoms are a feature of Bipolar II as well, but patients do not experience the full-blown mania that Bipolar I patients do. Depressive episodes are typically less severe and may last much longer. The more subtle presentation of symptoms is what can make Bipolar II Disorder a bit harder to diagnose. The symptoms of the manic phases are similar but far less pronounced in most people with this form of bipolar disorder. They can much more easily be dismissed as normal irrational exuberance or enthusiasm.

The same is true of their depressive episodes. While they can go fairly deep into a funk, they usually don’t exhibit the extremes that bipolar II patients do. The depressive episodes also tend to last much longer. The lessened intensity and longer time span of these episodes are a large part of what makes this form of bipolar disorder more difficult to catch or diagnose correctly. Partial Hospitalization treatment offers a real advantage for these patients as it presents opportunities for clinicians to observe and interact with them for much more time than conventional outpatient mental health treatment does.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia) is another form of bipolar disorder which is less well-known and somewhat rare. It is defined by hypomanic symptoms as well as depressive symptoms which last for at least 2 years. These symptoms are also less severe than they appear in patients with Bipolar I Disorder. Because of the long spans of time and lesser severity of symptoms, Cyclothymic Disorder can be very difficult to detect and diagnose. Patients with this disorder may also experience long periods of time where they feel relatively “normal” with neither hypomanic nor depressive symptoms. While this makes living with Cyclothymic Disorder somewhat easier than other types of bipolar disorder it also makes it much harder to recognize, diagnose and treat effectively.

SBMHC Can Help

If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from treatment for bipolar disorder or you just have questions about bipolar disorder or mental health care, give The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center a call at (954) 637-7656

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