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What Type of Bipolar Disorder Is It?

Each bipolar disorder illness is unique!

Uniqueness of Bipolar DisorderWhen nearly anyone thinks about bipolar disorder, they think of the symptoms of “regular” bipolar disorder.  Not that any person with bipolar disorder is “regular” (and most would not want to be), but there are several different subtypes of bipolar disorder.

One big problem with bipolar disorder is that each illness is unique.  Psychiatrists may classify them into categories – but they don’t always fit.  Here are some case scenarios: (bipolar episodesbipolar groups)

•    Jennifer has episodes where she is extremely agitated and unhappy and never seems to sleep very much.  These periods seem to last for a long period of time – but can alternate with months where she is simply unhappy and doesn’t feel like doing anything.
•    Max has had periods of depression before.  A lot of times, they go away after a couple of months and then he seems normal but recently he “disappeared” for a couple of weeks after some really bizarre behavior.  His friends never knew that he was any kind of bipolar until he told them he had been at the hospital.
•    Ben has periods of depression that can last for several months but when he is not depressed, he is productive and seems quite outgoing.
•    Sandra’s mood state can switch erratically.  One day she is all about shopping and the next time you call her, she is still in bed at noon.   This is a constant issue – and you never know what you are going to get.

These are three examples of bipolar disorder that don’t seem to fit the “normal” pattern.  None of these patients seems to be “regular” bipolar.

Bipolar disorder is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as:

Bipolar Disorder TypeBipolar I Disorder: manic or mixed episodes that last at least 7 days – or if manic symptoms are severe enough to need hospitalization.  This, usually, includes periods of depression that last at least two weeks.
Jennifer and Max both fit into this category.  Even though Max never had a severe manic episode, having a bipolar episode that warrants medical attention, he qualifies for the Bipolar I category.  Jennifer has mixed episodes – rather than euphoria or traditional mania – she has periods of “dysphoria” where she is agitated, irritable and irrational but with an excess of energy.

Bipolar II Disorder: depressive and hypomanic episodes in a pattern – but manic episodes are not severe.
Ben has Bipolar II disorder.  He has periods of depression that are debilitating, but his non-depressed periods are quite productive, and he doesn’t exhibit manic behavior.

Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified: (Bipolar Disorder NOS) symptoms of illness don’t meet any other group, but the symptoms are clearly not within the standard range.
Sandra has BP-NOS.  She is what is commonly called a “rapid cycler,” meaning that she switches back and forth from mania to depression much faster than other people with bipolar disorder.

There is also a very mild form of bipolar disorder known as cyclothymia.  It is a cyclical pattern of hypomania alternating with periods of mild depression.  Many people would not even realize this is a problem.

Bipolar disorder is hard to classify.  It may be easy to determine that someone has a problem – but the uniqueness of each bipolar case makes it more difficult for even a patient to identify with the diagnosis.  Each type of bipolar disorder is, usually, treated the same medically. With an anti-manic agent (Lithium), anti-epileptic (Lamictal, Depakote) or atypical antipsychotic (Abilify, Zyprexa) – and sometimes with an antidepressant.

Melissa Lind

Dispelling a Few Myths about Bipolar Disorder

Dispelling myths about Bipolar Disorder

Hello again, fellow wackos and electronic rubberneckers!Bipolar?

If you’re here because you’re like me—just a little “off”—then welcome. If you’re here to learn about bipolar disorder, stick around, because I know a thing or two and I like to talk. If you’re here to watch the train wreck happen, hoping I’ll melt down and post something crazy about the talking wombats that live in my refrigerator and their TV viewing habits… well, you’ll probably be a little disappointed. I may be a freak, but I’m not crazy.
Yeah, that’s right. I just called myself a freak. I figure if other people are going to call me that, I can probably get away with saying it myself. Wacko, nutcase, loony, psycho… There are lots of things people say about bipolar disorder, and many of them just aren’t true. Let’s take a look at a few of those things right now.

Bipolar Myth #1People with bipolar disorder aren’t really sick.
Bipolar SkelletonSome people say that bipolar disorder is “all in your head.” They say things like “everyone gets depressed. You just need to suck it up and deal with it like everyone else.” If this is true, then diabetics just need to get over their illness, too. I mean, too much sugar is bad for everyone, right?
Just as a diabetic’s body doesn’t process sugars properly, a person with bipolar disorder’s brain doesn’t process dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine quite right.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Take it from research scientists at the University of Michigan who’ve studied Abnormal Brain Chemistry Found in Bipolar Disorder. They know what they’re talking about.
I’m just some freak, remember?
So, you can tell me I don’t have a “real” disease and that I just need to deal with it, but first you gotta tell Ms. Diabetic to eat six Twinkies and deal with it. Go ahead. I’ll call 911 while she’s chewing.
This myth is so prevalent that insurance companies are allowed to treat it—or more accurately NOT treat it—like it isn’t a “real” disease. The last health insurance I had would pay for 80% of the bill if I had to have major surgery, but only 50% if I saw a doctor for bipolar disorder. Also, they limited the number of times I could see a doctor for treatment to 12 times a year. Tell you what… let’s limit diabetics to 12 insulin shots per year and see how well they do.
What? We shouldn’t do that because they could get sick and die?
Well, people with bipolar disorder die, too. In fact, without proper treatment, 20% of them commit suicide. That’s one in five, folks. I’d say that constitutes a serious health risk. Maybe this bipolar thing is a real disease after all.

Bipolar Myth #2People with bipolar disorder are beyond hope.
He’s got bipolar disorder. He’s crazy. He can’t be helped. He’s a lost cause. Or is he?
The fact is—he isn’t. Bipolar disorder is one of the EASIEST conditions to treat. There are several effective medications, some of which have been in use for quite a while. Lithium, for example, has been around since the 1950’s. Lithium doesn’t work for everyone, though. That’s why there’s Lamictal, Depakote, Zoloft, Tegretol, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Effexor, and a partridge in a pear tree. A psychiatrist can tinker with medications until he finds a combination that works.
Medications can help, but so can just talking. Talk therapy did me more good than any pill ever did. However, without the pills, I probably wouldn’t have listened to anything when I was at rock bottom.
The point is this: people with bipolar disorder CAN be helped. So if you have bipolar disorder or know someone who does, don’t give up. There is hope.
Well gang, it looks like I’m over word count. I told you I like to talk! We’ll talk some more next time when I dispel a few more myths about bipolar disorder.
So to all my friends and fellow freaks, until next time… keep fighting!

Bruce Anderson

Read more here: Words As Weapons And Another Bipolar Myth Dispelled