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Am I Bipolar? Top Indicators of Bipolar II Disorder (2nd Article in a Series of Two)

 

Bipolar II Disorder

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Bipolar II Disorder symptoms are very similar to Bipolar I Disorder. A bipolar disorder treatment program requires an accurate diagnosis in order to be effective. Bipolar disorder is a frequently misunderstood diagnosis.

In a previous article we discussed some of the top indicators of Bipolar I Disorder . In this article we will discuss some of the top indicators of Bipolar II Disorder.

All types of bipolar disorder (cyclothymic disorder (or cyclothymia) and other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorders are other, less common types of bipolarity) are distinctly marked by episodes of extreme highs (mania, or manic episodes) and extreme lows (depressive episodes).

Depressive episodes are very much alike with both Bipolar I and Bipolar II disorders, and there are few surprises in this regard. The primary difference between the two types of disorder is found in the extremity of the manic episodes that are the result of each. The mania is significantly greater with Bipolar I, while Bipolar II exhibits a condition known as “hypomania,” which is essentially a much lesser degree of mania. What does that mean? Manic behaviors are typically more severe, and are considered to be “out of character,” or even dangerous for the manic individual. Hypomanic behaviors might seem “out of character” for the individual, but would not necessarily be considered “abnormal.”

Bipolar I Disorder

To be properly diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder, you need to have experienced at least one manic episode (so severe that hospital care was required), preceded or followed by a depressive episode.

Manic episode symptoms are generally so intrusive and poignant that there is little room for doubt that something is “off.” Such episodes are typically characterized by recognizable bipolar disorder symptoms such as:

  • state of euphoria (unexplainable happiness, elation)
  • disturbed sleep
  • restlessness
  • high energy levels
  • compulsively “explosive” temper, argumentative, and confrontational
  • disturbed concentration
  • risky behaviors (including promiscuity, substance abuse, excessive gambling, compulsive shopping, etc.)

 

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II is commonly misdiagnosed as depression. Granted, it often involves major depressive episodes lasting at least two weeks, as well as at least one hypomanic episode. Note that Bipolar II mania is usually not severe enough to require hospitalization.

When the mania that would indicate bipolarity is dormant, the focus naturally falls on the individual’s depressive symptoms.

Bipolar Disorder Causes

We still don’t know exactly what the root cause of bipolar disorder is. Popular beliefs include: abnormal cerebral characteristics (physical), an imbalance in cerebral chemicals, and certain genetic characteristics.

Like other medical conditions, bipolarity is often passed along through families. Those with parents or siblings who have bipolar disorder run a greater risk of developing it themselves. The genetic source of bipolar disorder also continues to be a mystery.

It’s commonly acknowledged that substance abuse, acute stress, and/or emotionally traumatic episodes may trigger bipolarity. Such triggers include childhood abuse, the loss of a loved one, PTSD, etc.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Bipolar disorders are usually treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. You should discuss side effects and interaction effects of any medications prescribed by your mental health professional with him or her.

Mood stabilizers are generally the first go-to pharmaceutical for treatment, and these can be taken for an extended duration. Lithium has been a widely used mood stabilizer for several years. Though it does have several potential side effects, including decreased thyroid functioning, indigestion, and joint pain. An antipsychotic medication (sometimes more than one) can be carefully selected and prescribed in an appropriate dosage by your health care professional to treat manic episodes.

Regarding psychotherapy, often talking about your experiences openly and honestly with someone you trust can give you valuable insights into your mental illness, as can journaling. Pay attention to your moods, sleeping and eating patterns, and significant life events to help you and your mental health professional understand how the medications and psychotherapy are working. If overall symptoms don’t show an improvement or decline, your doctor may suggest changing up your medications, or may try a different psychotherapeutic approach.

Moving Forward

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, at least not yet. Proper treatment and support from your family and friends will help you manage your symptoms and quality of life. Be sure to keep your family and friends in the loop regarding your treatment, and follow your mental healthcare professional’s directions in regard to medications and lifestyle choices, including:

  • Diet
  • Sleep
  • Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Stress management

Learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder, as the more you know about your condition, the more in control you will feel as you manage your mental illness. You may gain insights to help you repair damaged or strained relationships. Helping those in your life better understand your condition can help them be more understanding regarding past hurtful interactions.

Always remember that this is a manageable condition, and that you are not alone. Talk to your mental health professional or contact local hospitals about local resources and support groups.

Are you concerned about the possibility that you or a loved one may have bipolar disorder? Don’t fret! It’s treatable and manageable! If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

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Bipolar Disorder – Signs, Symptoms, & Definition

bipolar disorder girl tied up on railroad tracks

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Bipolar Disorder: How to Recognize It

Some sort of bipolar disorder test may have appeared on your radar at some point, either for yourself or for someone you love. Unfortunately, though we can easily recognize many common bipolar symptoms, there is no such thing as a quick and easy fail-proof medical test (or X-ray, brain scan, MRI) that can result in a reliable bipolar disorder diagnosis.

In fact, it is not uncommon for someone with bipolar disorder to be misdiagnosed as something else, such as Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

What is bipolar disorder?

Let’s begin with a working definition. Bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depression or bipolar depression) has been classified as a type of mood disorder. Those who live with it are known to swing back and forth from feeling severely depressed and unable to muster the energy to get out of bed some days to feeling energized, creative, sleepless, and invincible (or manic) on others.   

In between bipolar depressive and manic episodes, people with bipolar can enjoy periods of relative stability and “normalcy,” though the extreme volatility in mood is much more serious for them than the common ups and downs that most people go through. The treatment and diagnosis of bipolar disorder requires the attention of a specialist with expertise in mood disorders.

Bipolar Symptoms

If you have ever experienced depression for two weeks or more, if that depression was so severe that it made normal daily activities almost impossible without a lot of effort, if you have lost interest for extended periods of time in activities that typically bring you pleasure (anhedonia), or if a mental health professional has ever suggested that you may have symptoms of bipolar…those are strong indicators that you may indeed have it.

If you have been diagnosed, or suspect that you may be living with it, following are some things you should know.

Recognizing bipolar can be tricky. When someone with bipolar symptoms is on a manic high or going through a “normal” stage, he or she might actually be enjoyable to be around. Or, some people never get too manic on their own, and are depressed more often than not. When antidepressants are prescribed without a mood stabilizer for such individuals, it can send them into a full-blown mania. Over time, the mania followed by the lows can become more noticeable and poignant.

There are more types of bipolar disorder than you might be aware of. The disorder is about more than just mood extremes. Bipolar disorder types are classified as bipolar I, bipolar II (more severe), cyclothymia (more mania with less depression), rapid cycling (four or more episodes within 12 months), or “mixed state” (when depression and mania happen concurrently).

Manic episodes can affect someone in the same way as psychosis. Mania in the context of bipolar are not always merely periods of mood “highs.” Along with the spike in energy and creativity comes less of an inclination to eat properly and get enough sleep, which can lead to delusional thinking or hallucinations, both of which are telltale symptoms of psychosis.

It is treatable, though there’s no known cure. This is a long-term condition with no fail-safe cure, at least not yet. The good news is that with bipolar treatment, the negative effects can be significantly reined in. Between medication (to treat depression and mania, as well as to stabilize the bipolar individual’s mood), lifestyle changes such as exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating, and treatment, there are plenty of approaches for someone with the disorder to take.  

When someone with bipolar symptoms begins to recognize the things and situations that trigger his or her mood swings, it becomes easier to map out a treatment approach. And then, coping and managing the disorder begins to become second nature, as does getting on with your life.  

Having trouble starting a hard conversation about yourself or a loved one having bipolar symptoms? If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about bipolar symptoms or feelings of being overwhelmed, we’d like to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

The Best Free Apps to Help You Manage Your Mental Health

Best Mental Health Apps

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Mental health apps? Just when you thought you’d seen an app for just about anything, now we have apps for mental health for both the Android and the iPhone.

Mental health apps can be very effective in making therapy portable, accessible, and efficient. What do “mental health” apps do, exactly? In short, they help you better manage your mental health by offering you reminders, tracking, remote counseling, etc.

If you’ve never used a mental health app, you may not know what kind of helpful resource you’re missing out on. Below are a few that have undergone independent review by Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) members unaffiliated with the apps’ development and promotion.


Live OCD Free
(Adults, teens, children)

Imagine a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment of OCD that can help both children and adults. Live OCD Free features a cognitive toolkit, pre-programmed as well as exposures you can design yourself, entirely behavioral exposure response prevention (ERP) exercises, and an ERP guide offering preset and customized ERPs.

Another feature users enjoy is the support of direct as well as loop tape exposure via microphone. The duration of ERP exercises is defined by time lapsed, rather than a decrease in your anxiety level.


Breathe2Relax
(Adults, veterans, teens)

 

Are you familiar with panic attacks? Hyperventilation?

This mobile application was designed by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (NCTT), and functions as an intuitive, simple, and aesthetically pleasing interface to help you manage your stress and learn breathing techniques.

Personalize Breathe2Relax to whatever non-intrusive pace you prefer. The app includes reading materials, a video demo, and charts to track your progress — includes a video demo, reading materials, and graphs to track your personal progress. Whether you’re a self-starter, or are already working with a therapist regarding an anxiety disorder, stress, and/or PTSD, you will benefit radically from the app’s consistent use.

MoodTools (Adults, veterans, teens)

 

MoodTools was especially created to help you cope with feelings of depression. It helps you get educated about risk factors and psychosocial approaches to treatment. The app also features a depression symptom questionnaire (PHQ-9), a suicide safety plan, a thought diary, and videos including  meditation guides.

Talkspace (Adults, teens)

 

Talkspace offers counseling and therapy on the go to help you connect with an affordable, convenient, and confidential resource to help you deal with stress, depression, anxiety, chronic illness, and relationship issues.

Meet privately whenever you need to with your therapist when you upgrade, to get whatever you need to off of your chest. Pricing plans are as low as 20 percent of what traditional office visits would be.


SuperBetter

 

SuperBetter is a game that rewards you for increasing your resilience and the ability to remain focused, optimistic, and motivated when confronted by challenges. The app will help you to improve your skills, strengthen relationships, implement new habits, pursue and complete meaningful projects.

In case you needed an excuse to try it out, a University of Pennsylvania study indicated that 30 days of playing SuperBetter reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved users’ mood, and boosted their self-confidence in regard to achieving goals.

So, there you have it. Portable help for you to manage your mental health more effectively, at the tip of your fingers. Did we forget one of your favorite mental health management apps? We’d love to hear about it!


Are you feeling overwhelmed by issues arising from a mental illness? If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about managing mental health issues, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at
 Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

 

Am I Bipolar? Top Indicators of Bipolar I Disorder (1st Article in a Series of 2)

Bipolar Disorder Test

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“Do I have bipolar disorder?” is a reasonable question you may have asked yourself. You may have undergone a test to see if you have the disorder, or received a bipolar disorder diagnosis. This article is the first in a series of two.

Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a complex, lifelong mental health disorder that exhibits severe mood swings ranging from emotional highs (mania or hypomania) to lows (depression). Have you ever had concerns that you are bipolar?

You may have experienced euphoria, felt full of life and energy, or experienced moments of extreme irritability. Another week you may have found yourself feeling depressed, sad, hopeless, and without any interest in activities that have brought you pleasure or enjoyment in the past. Such extreme mood swings can sabotage your sleep cycles, energy levels, judgment, concentration, and adversely affect your ability to think clearly. They may have even driven you to feel suicidal.

Your episodic mood swings may occur only sometimes or multiple times every year. Between episodes you may experience some emotional symptoms, or perhaps none at all. Regardless, the disorder is a factor that makes your life seem difficult, if not unmanageable.

The root cause of bipolar disorder remains a mystery to mental health professionals, though several factors are involved, such as biological differences (physical changes in the brain),  and/or genetics (bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a first-degree relative, like a sibling or parent, with the disorder). Researchers are still working to find genes that may be directly involved in causing the condition.

There are several types of bipolar disorders and related conditions, including bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, cyclothymic disorder, to name a few. This post will focus primarily on symptoms of bipolar I disorder.

Bipolar I disorder means you’ve had at least one intense manic episode, resulting in uncharacteristic behavior, possibly before or after either a less severe hypomanic episode or a severe depressive episode. It has a distinct diagnosis from bipolar II disorder. The mania may have sparked an episodic break from reality, otherwise known as a psychotic episode, which may require hospitalization. Manic episodes experienced with bipolar I disorder can be severe and dangerous. Problems with work, school, and relationships are likely.

Manic episodes resulting from bipolar I disorder are characterized not only by a euphoric or irritable mood, but by three or more of the following symptoms:

  • Hyperactive thinking, inability to focus on immediate tasks
  • Loud and fast, uninterruptable speech
  • A significant boost in energy, including hyperactivity and feeling a need for less sleep
  • Delusional, aggrandized self-image
  • Excessive spending and/or travel
  • Impulsive behavior, an obsession with “living dangerously”
  • An overwhelming “devil-may-care” attitude
  • Brazen promiscuity
  • Substance abuse
  • Psychosis

A depressive episode is likely to follow your manic phase, not necessarily immediately, and possibly lasting days, weeks, or months.

Having bipolar disorder is not the end of the world. Though there is no cure for the condition, you can learn to manage your mood swings and other symptoms with the guidance of a mental health professional and a treatment plan. For most cases, bipolar disorder is treated with medications and counseling.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts and impulses, or the compulsion to hurt self or someone else, call a doctor immediately.

Are you concerned about the possibility that you or a loved one may have bipolar disorder? Don’t fret! It’s treatable and manageable! If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.