Tomorrow is Bipolar Awareness Day and Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday. Did you know he was posthumously diagnosed with bipolar disorder? I had no idea until I was diagnosed and doing research on the disorder to better understand myself. When I was first diagnosed in February it was a shock and I stressed out about it. I hope my post today will help those recently diagnosed find peace with their own diagnosis.
Symptoms of Bipolar 1
- 1 Episode of Depression
- 1 Episode of Mania (lasting at least 5-7 days)
*Please note that mania can result in hospitalizations and can last from periods of 3-6 months if left untreated.
Symptoms of Bipolar 2
- 1 Episode of Depression
- 1 Episode of Hypomania (lasting at least 4 days)
- NO Episodes of Mania
*Please note that psychosis is not typically triggered by “hypomania” due to it being more mild than mania. Hypomanic episodes are usually hard to recognize because it can seem like someone is “normally” functioning.
What is The Difference Between Bipolar 1 And Bipolar 2?
Mania is the more extreme form as it can and does result in psychosis and hospitalizations. They have the same symptoms such as
- Abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired
- Increased activity, energy or agitation
- Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
- Decreased need for sleep
- Unusual talkativeness
- Racing thoughts
- Poor decision-making — for example, going on buying sprees, taking sexual risks or making foolish investments
When these symptoms are present in hypomania, especially after a long depressive episode, it may seem to others that the person has come out of their depressive state and are just feeling really good. Hypomania doesn’t usually cause upsets at work and school or in life in general. Psychosis is not a symptom of hypomania. An initial diagnosis of Bipolar 2 can change in the future if you have even just one episode of mania. Bipolar 2 also results in more depressive episodes.
Symptoms of Mixed Episodes
Mixed episodes can include any of the above with symptoms of depression co-occurring.
Symptoms of Rapid Cycling
Rapid Cycling in when you experience 4 or more episodes of Mania/Hypomania or depression in a 12 month period.
How do They Treat Bipolar?
Bipolar is treated with both medications to stabilize the brain chemicals and therapy. Medications include a mixture of mood stabilizers (sometimes these are in the form of anticonvulsant medications) and anti-psychotics – which limit the amount of episodes one might have. Antidepressants alone have been known to trigger manic/hypomanic episodes.
What to do if You Think You Are Bipolar?
Please do not self-diagnose. If you do this it could hurt you more by researching a disorder and following tips to treat it when you don’t actually have it. This is not good for your mental wellbeing. BUT IF you think you have bipolar, the first step is to start tracking your moods. I use an app on my phone called Dalio. You can track your moods and activities associated with those moods. The second step is to talk to a psychiatrist. GP’s cannot diagnose mental disorders. A psychiatrist will ask you a series of questions related to the disorder and will diagnose you based on your score. You must meet at least three of the symptoms I listed above to be diagnosed Bipolar 1 or Bipolar 2. Bipolar 1 symptoms must last at least one week and Bipolar 2 symptoms must last for 3-4 days.
If you are diagnosed as Bipolar 1 or 2 it is best if you get into therapy and get on the correct medications to stabilize you.
I am currently on Gabapentin (an anti-convulsant used as a mood-stabilizer) and Abilify, a mood stabilizer. I have been on these two medications for a month and already feel so much more stable. My psychiatrist even told me that I seemed so much better than when she first saw me. I am in therapy and love my therapist (and my psychiatrist!) so much!
Journaling is also an amazing coping skill that can help you look back on certain things. It helps to clear out the mind and allow you to practice more mindfulness.
Remember, if you are diagnosed as Bipolar, you are not “crazy” and you are not alone. Let’s end the stigma together. If you would like to help out this Bipolar Awareness Day you can spread awareness by sharing your own story or a story of a loved one. Give support to those in your life that are suffering and help them get the help they need. You can also donate to any of the following charities.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF)
- Brain & behavior Research Foundation
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
If you are feeling suicidal please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.