Am I bipolar? When to see a doctor

Bipolar disorder interferes with a person’s moods and activity level. Doctors diagnose people of all ages with bipolar disorder.

However, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the average age of a person developing bipolar disorder is 25.

There are many treatments available to help people with bipolar manage their symptoms.

Signs and symptoms

People with bipolar disorder can experience extreme mood swings and shifts in energy levels.

These symptoms may disrupt their life.

There are several different types of bipolar disorder.

The symptoms a person experiences will vary depending on the type of bipolar disorder they have and whether they are having a manic or depressive episode.

People with bipolar I disorder need only have a manic episode. They may experience a major depressive episode, but it is not necessary for the bipolar I diagnosis.

Symptoms of a manic episode include:

  • feelings of euphoria, or being very “up”
  • higher energy and activity levels
  • jumpiness
  • talking very fast
  • agitation and irritability
  • insomnia
  • racing thoughts
  • engaging in reckless behavior, such as excessive money spending or dangerous driving

Symptoms of a major depressive episode include:

  • feeling very sad, hopeless, or empty
  • lower energy and activity levels
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • inability to enjoy things that normally bring pleasure
  • feeling very tired or slow
  • suicidal thoughts

People with bipolar disorder may not realize that their moods and behavior are disrupting their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Because of this, people who have bipolar disorder often do not get the medical attention and treatment they require. This is especially true during their euphoric manic periods.

People with bipolar disorder are more likely to seek help when they experience a depressive episode.

Because of this, the doctor may incorrectly diagnose the person with depression instead.

Once a doctor diagnoses someone with bipolar disorder, they should see their doctor often to evaluate how well any prescription medications are working. Also, a doctor may recommend that a person with bipolar talk regularly with a mental health professional.

When to seek urgent care

Sometimes, a person with a bipolar disorder diagnosis may need emergency medical attention.

People with bipolar disorder should go to the emergency room or call 911 if they are:

  • having suicidal thoughts
  • having thoughts of self-harm
  • a danger to themselves or others

Also, in some cases, a person who has bipolar disorder may not realize that emergency help is necessary. When this is the case, a friend or relative may need to intervene and get the person the help they need.

A person with bipolar disorder can also help prevent or lessen episodes by making lifestyle changes, including:

  • keeping a mood chart or journal
  • avoiding alcohol and illegal drugs
  • finding supportive people, either through friends and family or support groups
  • forming and nurturing healthy relationships
  • getting enough sleep
  • following a healthful diet and exercise routine
  • speaking to a doctor before taking any other medications
  • practicing stress management techniques, such as meditation

Outlook and takeaway

People with any type of bipolar disorder may find it hard to deal with and manage the condition.

There are many treatment options available, but it is a lifelong condition.

People with bipolar disorder must continue with their treatment to help manage their symptoms. Episodes of mania and depression tend to recur even with treatment, but the frequency and severity may lessen.

It is crucial for a person with bipolar disorder to work with their doctor to control their symptoms through medications and therapy. A person who has bipolar disorder may need emergency medical attention if they have suicidal thoughts or pose a danger to themselves or others.

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