How to Deal with the Uncertainty of Bipolar Episodes

Overview

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness which causes severe mood swings ranging from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression). Bipolar mood swings may occur several times a year, or only rarely.

There are several types of bipolar disorder, including the following:

  • Bipolar I disorder, characterized by at least one manic episode. This may or may not be followed by a depressive episode.
  • Bipolar II disorder, characterized by at least one major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks, and at least one episode of hypomania (a milder condition than mania) that lasts for at least four days.
  • Cyclothymic disorder, characterized by at least two years of symptoms. With this condition, the person has many episodes of hypomanic symptoms that don’t meet the full criteria for a hypomanic episode. They also have depressive symptoms that don’t meet the full diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode. They’re never without symptoms for longer than two months at a time.

The specific symptoms of bipolar disorder vary depending on which type of bipolar disorder is diagnosed. However, some symptoms are common in most people with bipolar disorder. These symptoms include:

  • anxiety
  • trouble concentrating
  • irritability
  • mania and depression at the same time
  • disinterest and loss of pleasure in most activities
  • an inability to feel better when good things happen
  • psychosis that causes a detachment from reality, often resulting in delusions (false but strong beliefs) and hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that don’t exist)

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