Bipolar Disorder: Types, Symptoms and How to Identify It

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that can cause episodes of high activity, energy, euphoria, making disproportionate plans or purchases, and sometimes irritability, called manic episodes, as well as depressive episodes with sadness, lack of energy, pessimism and even a desire to die and/or take one’s own life.

These episodes usually last for weeks, especially if untreated. More rarely there are both manic and depressive symptoms and we call them mixed episodes.

Between these phases, the person may feel well, without excessive euphoria or sadness, which we call euthymia.

Are there types, what are they?

Yes, there are types with very different severity and course, depending on the manic or depressive situations. To understand this classification it is necessary to know some terms:

We call a manic episode that is serious enough to cause significant family or work repercussions, psychiatric admission or the appearance of psychotic symptoms (which, simply explained, means an absence or distortion of the sense of reality, with the appearance of false “delusional” ideas or hallucinations).

If the mood is elevated, there is more activity or euphoria, but it does not reach this level of severity we speak of hypomanic episode.

On the other hand, if the depressive mood is serious, because of the affectation of the patient’s life or because of suicidal ideas, we call it a major depressive episode.

From this point on, and depending on how the criteria for these episodes are articulated or met, we define the types of PBS:

  • PBS I is the picture in which there is at least one manic episode.
  • PBS II is the condition in which there is at least one hypomanic episode and one major depressive episode and, in addition, there has never been a manic episode (in which case it would be PBS I). It is mild PBS.
  • Cyclothymic disorder, there are mood alternations, but in the highs the criteria for a hypomanic episode are not even met and in the low phases the criteria for a major depressive episode are not met. It would be the mildest and, although described here, is not properly considered a PBS.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

According to Medline Plus the most important symptoms in PBS would be:

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Manic episode:

  • Excessive euphoria, optimism.
  • Nervousness or acceleration, the person is more active than normal.
  • Irritability or bad temper.
  • Very fast thoughts.
  • Less ability to sleep.
  • Feeling of power or unusual importance.
  • Doing things that involve risks: eating and/or drinking too much, spending or giving away too much money, having unsafe sex.

Depressive episode:

  • Sadness and hopelessness.
  • Feelings of loneliness or isolation.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Excessive sleeping.
  • Eating too much or too little.
  • Lack of interest.
  • Thoughts about death and/or suicide.

In the case of a mixed episode it includes manic and depressive symptoms. For example, you may feel very sad, empty or hopeless, while at the same time feeling extremely energetic.

How can I identify that a person in my environment suffers from this disorder?

In most cases it is the evolutionary course that allows us to diagnose it by seeing these alternations in mood, although a specialist can diagnose a manic episode in an interview with the patient, it is advisable to gather information from the past.

And how can I identify that I suffer from it myself? And if I am a person who has no relationship with anyone, how do I do it without the help of others?

Most patients with PBS have phases of euthymia in which there are neither manic nor depressive symptoms.

It is in these phases that the person can recapitulate on themselves and their history to at least realize that something is wrong and ask for help.

When should I see a specialist?

If there is a suspicion of PBS because of the symptoms and course described, a psychiatrist should be consulted.

What is the role of the psychologist or psychiatrist in treating this disorder?

The psychiatrist should diagnose TBP and prescribe medication, follow up, evaluate improvement and side effects and, in this case, is primarily responsible for the treatment.

The clinical psychologist can provide psychotherapy to help the patient understand his or her problem and respond better to it after the diagnosis, which must be made by the psychiatrist.

Is bipolar disorder “cured” or can it be lived with?

PBS cannot be cured, as a cold can be cured; it is more like chronic pathologies such as hypertension, which evolve well with treatment.

From a positive point of view we can affirm that, if the treatment is properly followed, the evolution is good in most cases.

If you need more information about bipolar disorder, consult a specialist in Psychiatry.