Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar disorder is one of the most highly researched neurological disorders in the United States. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that bipolar disorder affects approximately 2% of the population in the United States. However, due to social stigma, a difficulty in diagnosing the condition and inadequate health care, only 40% of those suffering from this disease are adequately treated.

The Ancient History of Bipolar Disorders:
Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder marked by alternating periods of elation and depression. It was observed and written about as early as the 1st century in Ancient Greece. The medical pioneer Aretaeus of Cappadocia was the first to note the link between mania and depression. In fact, the ancient Greeks and Romans were responsible for the terms mania and melancholia (depression) which still remain in use today. They also pioneered a treatment for manic and depressive moods. Medical practitioners noted that using lithium salts in baths calmed people with manic feelings and helped depressed people feel better. This cure was well before its time as lithium is still one of the most widely used treatments for bipolar disorder today.

Currently, bipolar disorder is classified into four subtypes of varying severity, all which classify bipolar disorder as one manic episode and at least one or more major depressive episodes a year. Sufferers experience varying moods including uncharacteristic periods of aggression, overconfidence, frequent sadness, impulsive behavior, moodiness, confusion, and intense anxiety. Severe cases can cause patients to cycle from manic to depressive episodes as many as a few times a week to a few times a day. Bipolar disorders tend to begin when a patient is in their 20s, but it can appear at any age and does appear to favor one gender over the other.

As mentioned above, a vast majority of people suffering from bipolar depression are left untreated or under-treated. One of the reasons for this is that the cyclical nature of the disease makes the manic episodes hard to diagnose. Often, patients are treated “just” for depression as their manic episodes are initially seen as simply “feeling better.” Not until a pattern emerges and the manic episodes are observed more carefully does the real diagnosis develop. This is important to note as it takes on average 3 visits to a therapist to receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a condition that takes some work to accurately diagnose; understanding this process can help it go smoother. Despite the difficult path to diagnosis, once bipolar disease is diagnosed correctly it is widely regarded as highly treatable with a combination of medication and various therapies. Often multiple medications are prescribed to help even out both manic and depressive feelings.

If you or a loved one is experiencing devastating highs and lows with overconfidence and hyperactivity on one end and intense sadness and anger on the other, you may be experiencing bipolar disorder. The first step to taking control of your emotions is speaking with your therapist. After your first visit, you’ll be on the path to long-term wellness.

Couples Counseling Boulder by Therapist Christy Weller, Psy.D. Also specializing in Psychotherapy and Psychological Assessment Services.