We all experience minor changes in our mood, such as feeling happy or sad. There is usually a good reason for these changes. We may feel happy getting a promotion at work, or sad when losing someone we love.
Usually our mood is appropriate for what is happening in our lives at the time. However, individuals who have bipolar disorder tend to have major changes in their mood for no obvious reason. They have repeated mood swings which are very severe and which do not seem to occur for any good reason.
The mood changes involved in bipolar disorder range from one extreme to another and interfere with the individual’s ability to function. At one extreme, the individual may feel excessively happy and excited, with a huge increase in energy and activity. This extreme mood swing is called “mania.” At the other extreme, the person may be severely depressed with a great loss of interest or energy. These moodswings usually last anywhere from a few weeks to months. Some individuals experience “mixed” episodes, where they experience most of the symptoms of both mania and depression daily for at least a week.
Symptoms of mania include:
• Elevated mood.
• Increase energy, activity, creativity, and sociability.
• Thinking and speaking quickly.
• Impaired concentration and attention.
• Enhanced libido, often leading to disinhibition and inappropriate sexual activity.
• Acting in a reckless or uncharacteristically risky way.
• Decreased need for sleep.
• Grandiose ideas and inflated self-esteem.
• Making unrealistic plans.
• Aggressive behaviour.
Symptoms of depression include:
• Feeling sad most of the time.
•Feelings of shame arising from behaviour during a manic episode.
• Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities.
• Loss of confidence.
• Feeling tired all the time.
• Feeling of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly everyday.
• Difficulties in concentrating.
• Having recurrent thoughts of death.
During a manic episode, judgment is impaired, causing disruption in social and occupational functioning. The individual is at risk of ruining his or her reputation with inappropriate behaviour and they may also be at risk of causing serious financial, legal, or physical harm. The individual may not have insight about their illness, thus making it difficult for them to accept the need for treatment. Hospitalisation may be required during a manic episode. The most effective treatment strategy for bipolar disorder involves a combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and social support. Bipolar disorder requires long-term treatment.
If you have symptoms of bipolar disorder, it is important that you seek professional assistance as soon as possible. You may need to take medication to stabilise your mood. You may also benefit from therapy to help you understand, and recognise the onset of a particular phase (depression or mania) and cope with the symptoms. At Amicus Counselling and Clinical Psychological Services we work with you to develop and maintain an appropriate management plan. If you would like professional assistance to deal with bipolar disorder, please call 1800 AMICUS (1 800 264 287) for an appointment.
Amicus Counselling is located at:
Suite 701, Level 7, 105 Pitt Street Sydney NSW 2000
Level 1, 65 Hume Street Crows Nest NSW 2065