Depression is the most frequent form of mood disorder. Bipolar disorder, or what used to be called "manic depression" is the next most common. It is characterized by wide mood fluctuations ranging from deep depression and despair to extreme happiness, euphoria, drivenness or mania.
You might have Bipolar Disorder if you experience episodes that look like this:
- You feel an exaggerated elation, or have rapid, unpredictable mood swings.
- You get irritable or impatient when people can't keep up with you.
- You have an abnormal sleeping pattern. You haven't been able to sleep, you are too busy to sleep, you feel you don't need to sleep, and you don't feel tired the next day.
- You make big (unachievable) plans, have an inflated self-esteem, or have an exaggerated sense of your own importance.
- You are an impulsive spender.
- You can't control how much, how loud, or how fast you speak. People are having a hard time keeping up with you in conversation.
- Your thoughts are racing and jumbled, they jump from topic to topic.
- You have poor concentration and are easily distracted.
- You've been acting out of character, feel uninhibited, have an increased sexual drive, or have been behaving promiscuously.
- You behave like you can't be stopped, and have increased energy.
- Your driving is erratic and aggressive.
- You refuse treatment, blame others for your symptoms, have been using poor judgment, or show a lack of insight in your decision making.
- You've been acting inappropriately in social situations. You tell people off, misinterpret events and overreact, distort the meaning of ordinary remarks, or act out other high-risk behaviors.
Depression: The Path to Recovery
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These behaviors can last hours, days or weeks and normally end with a crash into profound depression.
During a depressed phase, bipolar depression is indistinguishable from unipolar depression. If a person is having their first episode of depression, it is not possible to tell which type of depression is present. About thirty percent of people having their first episode of depression are in fact bipolar but the swinging mood pattern has not yet emerged.
The usual age of onset of bipolar depression is in late adolescence and the early twenties, the same as in other mood disorders. It is usually not recognized until symptoms have been present for about ten years. In the years preceding diagnosis, there is usually unpredictable mood behavior with marked irritability. This is commonly seen during the adolescent prelude to being diagnosed, when this behavior is called a "normal phase." Those with bipolar mood disorder are very prone to abuse alcohol and street drugs as a way of self-medicating their confused and tormented thoughts. Bipolar mood disorder responds well to treatment.
What do I do next?
If you see yourself in the symptoms above then you need to print this list out, underline all your symptoms and take it to your doctor and then your counsellor. It will give them both a summary of what you are experiencing so they can create a treatment plan.