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manic episodes

Bipolar II Rant from a Bipolar I

Ranting on Bipolar II

For starters – this is a pure opinion piece.  I am going to rant a bit about Bipolar II.

I read a lot of bipolar “stuff” – articles, study results, chat boards, Facebook pages – a lot.  Recently, once again, I have become irritated by the use of “Bipolar II”.

I recognize that Bipolar II is a DSM diagnosis that indicates that a person has cyclical periods of depression alternating with Bipolarity in Hellhypomania.  I know that is true – and that the diagnosis must fit some people. Bipolar I, on the other hand, is defined as cyclical periods of depression, alternating with manic episodes.  If you are a rapid cycler or have mixed state disorder – you are usually classified as Bipolar I.

My current irritation is with a story – not a celebrity this time – but an apparently real person from a news story.  The article reports that this particular woman had been diagnosed with Bipolar II when she was 20 and now 38, she is stable on a myriad of pharmaceuticals.  Fine.

The article goes on to say that she “experiences the manic phase” but mostly struggles with the severe depression, adding that she also has PTSD, anxiety and has been unemployed most of her life.  Let me repeat, she has manic phases, PTSD, and anxiety. She has always been unemployed (due to her psychiatric condition).  Doesn’t sound very stable to me…and doesn’t sound much like Bipolar II.

I have a problem with the fact that so many stories I read are about people who claim to have Bipolar II, and are careful to clarify that they don’t have Bipolar I.  Naturally, this would be a kinder, gentler form of Bipolar disorder.  A Bipolar disorder where we never bother anyone, get lots of stuff done in an organized fashion but sometimes get depressed.  A Bipolar disorder that makes us “better”.  Better than Bipolar I’s craziness – and even better than regular people.

I don’t live in that world, and I am not truly convinced that it exists.  I have known lots of people with Bipolar disorder – in fact, I used to go to a group just for people with Bipolar disorder.  Every single person there was initially told they were Bipolar II – and then once they got used to that… the real news came out.

Many of us were “high functioning”, many of us had “good jobs”, many of us were “organized”… except when we weren’t.  We didn’t come to the bipolar group because things were going great.  We had all had periods of depression, periods of extreme productivity and periods of crazy when we told the truth.

Bipolar RantIn my experience, people with Bipolar disorder don’t seek help.  They are driven to it – or dragged.  People are driven to help when they are depressed, and they are dragged to help when they are manic.  If they arrive when depressed, they don’t report the mania that gets them a Bipolar II diagnosis.  If they arrive when they are manic – they won’t listen to anything about “crazy manic depression” so they are told about how much better Bipolar II is.  They will take the diagnosis and take the meds.  Either way, the first diagnosis is probably going to be Bipolar II.

I could claim to be Bipolar II.  I could even get a couple of doctors to agree with me.  Most of the time, I am “high functioning” – except when I am not.  Bipolar I won’t ever lose the stigma if Bipolar II continues to be presented as “better” and people continue to be dishonest.

Take your meds!

Melissa Lind

Bipolar Disorder – Euphoria vs. Dysphoria or Mixed Episode

Most symptoms of Manic Episodes appear to be positive

Manic-depression or Bipolar disorder is usually perceived on of two ways – a person who alternates between depression and euphoria – or a person who alternates between depression and craziness.

Often a person who is told that they are bipolar will identify one of those two states – and will object based on the fact that they have never been “euphoric“, and they have never been actually psychotic or “crazy”.

Bipolar disorder or Manic-Depression is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) – “the Bible” of psychiatric disorders – as “…clinical course that is characterized by the occurrence of one or more Manic Episodes…”

7 “points” retrieved from: DSM IV Criteria for Manic Episode – Food and Drug Administration

A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least one week. With three or more of:

1. Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
2. Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only three hours of sleep)
3. More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
4. Flight of ideas, or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
5. Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
6. Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
7. Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

There is another specifier – “The symptoms do not meet criteria for a Mixed Episode” which is left out in a lot of thought processes.

Bipolar - EuphoricOne problem that is often encountered when diagnosing Bipolar disorder – or when trying to convince someone who has Bipolar disorder that they do, indeed have the illness – is that most of the “symptoms” of a Manic Episode appear to be “positive” or “happy.”  If you examine the wording – it looks on the surface and is often described as periods of “Euphoria” or extreme happiness.

In truth, many people with Bipolar disorder don’t have periods of “euphoria,” they don’t have what is perceived as “inflated self-esteem or grandiosity“, and they don’t seek out “excessive involvement in pleasurable activities.”  They may have “dysphoria,” they may believe that they have to do everything themselves, they may experience psychomotor agitation…they may be in a really active bad mood.

This is a state of “dysphoria.”  It is also called a “mixed state” where the Manic Episode and the Depressive Episode occur at the same time.  Features may include the racing thoughts, irritability, lack of sleep, psychomotor agitation of a Manic Episode but also include anhedonia or lack of enjoyment, inappropriate guilt, or suicidal thoughts which are symptoms of depression.

Unfortunately, this disconnects in presentation, and lack of awareness of mixed states (in both the patient and some professionals) often gives the bipolar patient an “easy out” in acceptance of the diagnosis.

Melissa Lind

Mixed Episode or Manic Episode with Mixed Features is given too little attention!

Diagnosis and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose.

The average bipolar patient will see three mental health professionals before getting the right diagnosis. In fact, one-third of bipolar patients will not be diagnosed with the disorder until more than 10 years after they first seek treatment.

There is a lot of similarity between the symptoms of bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions, but that isn’t the only reason why it is so difficult to diagnose. Here are some of the complicating factors:

Bipolar Disorder PatientThe patient only talks about depression – as bipolar disorder is a condition that has periods of depression alternating with manic episodes, many patients present when they are depressed. This is particularly true when a patient seeks treatment for themselves. Manic patients feel good or at least energized and are unlikely to believe that anything is wrong. Either they feel terrific, or they are in a heightened “bad” mood – and likely to blame that on other people or life circumstances. Consequently when they first seek treatment – they only profess to the depression as that is most bothersome.

Bipolar disorder looks like anxiety – in actuality, many, if not most bipolar patients also have some type of anxiety disorder. Consequently it may be very difficult for mental health professional to root out bipolar disorder. If patients are seen as agitated, hyperactive or fidgety, they may be only asked about anxiety or given a self-rating scale for anxiety. This would immediately lead the practitioner to diagnose an anxiety disorder – unless careful investigations were done.

Substance abuse can be complicating the issue – many bipolar patients spend years self-treating with substances of abuse. This includes prescription medications, recreational drugs and alcohol. There is not any particular drug that is more often abused by bipolar people as a whole – some will choose alcohol, some will prefer stimulants, some will choose pain medications – all of which will mask the symptoms to some extent. In some cases, the substance abuse appears to be more problematic than anything else and in cases of addiction; the substance abuse must be treated before an accurate evaluation can occur.

Denial is very common – Denial is a nice way of saying dishonesty. That would be lying. This sounds very harsh but in many cases, bipolar patients will not be honest about difficulties that they have had. It may be subconscious dishonesty in that they, themselves do not really know what the problem is. Lack of awareness is common but outright denial is also common. Many bipolar patients absolutely refuse to accept the diagnosis when it is first presented – even after years of not being treated properly. Oddly, this may make it more likely that the practitioner believes that the patient has bipolar disorder but such outright denial delays treatment.

These are just a few of the reasons why bipolar disorder is so difficult to pin down and, unfortunately, delayed treatment can have huge life implicationsBipolar disorder is one of the riskiest psychiatric illnesses to have and can have severe consequences for the patient who is not properly diagnosed and medicated – including job losses, family disturbance, institutionalization, jail and even death.

Bipolar disorder affects not only the patient himself – but family and loved ones as well.

Why is it so difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder?

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

So, what causes Bipolar disorder?

It appears to be an interplay of genetic and physiological factors, coupled with stressful triggers, that causes Bipolar disorder…

Bipolar doctor

Manic depression, also called bipolar disorder, causes severe mood swings that can last for weeks or even months.

Everyone feels happy or sad sometimes. For someone with manic depression, however, these mood swings are much more intense. Scientists have not identified a single factor what causes bipolar disorder. Instead, it may have one or more of several different causes. These may be broken down into genetic, environmental and physiological causes.

There are three types of manic depression.

Bipolar Type I is characterized by at least one manic episode. A manic episode is a feeling of intense elation, restlessness and loss of inhibitions and over-activity. Sufferers during a manic episode may sleep for only three or four hours a night if at all.

Bipolar Type II, where there may be frequent episodes of depression with only mild manic episodes (called hypomania). Rapid cycling involves four or more mood swings over the period of a year.

Finally, there is Cyclothymia, where the mood swings last longer but they are less severe.

Genes is considered to be a contributing factor.

If one of your relatives has manic depression, there is a reasonable chance that you will develop it, too. Chromosome numbers 6 and 8 appear to have been implicated. Children of bipolar parents have an eight percent chance of developing the condition, compared with one percent in the general population.

A chemical imbalance in the brain may cause the disorder. Nerve signals travel from one neuron to another by way of chemicals called neurotransmitters. These include norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. It is possible that excess levels of norepinephrine may cause a manic episode.

During a depressive episode, levels of this neurotransmitter may be excessively low. The picture, however, is not that simple, as there are other neurotransmitters involved.

Mood swings can also be triggered by stress. Abuse; either physical, emotional or sexual, may trigger an episode. Bereavement or the breakdown of a close relationship may also be a trigger.

Not all stressful triggers are negative experiences. A positive change, such as a marriage or a birth can also make a contribution.

Once diagnosed, the condition can be treated or controlled, although certain risk factors may trigger a recurrence. Failure to comply with medication carries a high risk of recurrence, as do alcohol or drug abuse. Other risk factors include poor support systems. For example, the lack of caring friends or relatives or an erratic lifestyle.

Manic depression can lead to psychosocial disturbances.

For example, Bipolar Type I and Bipolar Type II are associated with a high absentee rate at work. There is also a higher rate of suicide attempts and hospital admissions with these conditions. While both conditions have high rates of attempted suicides, Type II sufferers seem to have fewer hospital admissions than Type I, and consequently miss fewer days at work.

So, what causes bipolar disorder? It appears to be an interplay of genetic and physiological factors, coupled with stressful triggers.

Complying with medication, adopting a stable lifestyle, and developing healthy coping strategies, may all keep the condition under control.

It is essential to consult a medical professional and not attempt self diagnosis.