Bipolar disorder -- formerly known by the term "manic depression" -- is now recognized as being a spectrum of linked types that have both similarities and differences between them. One primary feature is extreme mood swings that include manic highs and depressed lows. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance notes that about 5.7 million adults in America are affected by being on the bipolar spectrum each year. While the median onset age is 25 years, both children, as well as adults in their 40’s and 50’s, have developed the condition. Of the children and teens that are diagnosed with depression every year, it's estimated that one in three is actually experiencing early signs of being on the bipolar spectrum.
Signs of Being on the Bipolar Spectrum
Mental health professionals are now recognizing that bipolar is a spectrum of conditions that could look different from person to person.
It's important to note that the term "mania" can describe periods of time when a person is either euphoric or irritable. The key is that manic episodes are uncontrollable. An euphoric mood, for example, can quickly cross a line and include behavior that is unpredictable, feelings of irritability and periods of impaired judgment.
Being on the bipolar spectrum could result in depressive lows that range from mild, moderate, severe or chronic. These episodes could make it nearly impossible for a person to get out of bed or to stay asleep. Feelings of failure, helplessness, loss and guilt could be pervasive and might lead to suicidal thoughts. The depressive episodes that are experienced by a person on the bipolar spectrum can be more difficult to treat.
You are Not Alone and Help is Available
The mental health profession offers hope if you are one of the millions of people in the United States who are on the bipolar spectrum. You are a valuable contributor in the continued journey overcoming the negative effects that being on the bipolar spectrum can have on your life.
Become active in your treatment
Bipolar spectrum symptoms can be managed using a variety of methods including psychotherapy, medication, self-management strategies, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and complementary approaches. Communicating often with treatment providers and understanding that the treatment process can take time are two effective strategies.
Know your triggers
Getting to know yourself can alert you to an oncoming episode of depression or mania. Making a note of these symptoms, as well as any common triggers, can help you implement coping strategies. Some examples of these are talking to a support person, getting a sufficient amount of sleep, attending a support group and doing something to relax and unwind.
Connect with others
All the statistics in the world can't replace connecting and talking face-to-face with people like you that are coping with being on the bipolar spectrum. Be sure, too, that you don't forget to tap into sources of support close to you, such as friends and family, if they are available.
Develop a daily routine
Ensuring that you get enough sleep, eat well and exercise regularly can help keep symptoms at bay. Build in time to destress while also implementing leisure time.
Being on the bipolar spectrum means that you can still live a full and engaging life. The key is to realize you are not alone and that there are ways to help you cope.