Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes a person to experience extreme mood swings. While most people experience changes in moods from time to time, the shifts that people with this mental illness experience are severe.
People with this condition experience periods of mania followed by periods of extreme depression. During a manic period, a sufferer may exhibit:
- increased creativity
- increased energy levels
- reckless behavior.
When the manic period shifts to the depressed stage, people often experience:
- decreased energy levels
- feeling of hopelessness
- increased sleep
- suicidal thoughts.
If you suspect you have this mental illness, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible. He will be able to review and analyze your symptoms as well as perform some tests in order to determine whether or not you are suffering from the condition.
Testing for Bipolar Disorder
When testing for this condition, it is likely that your doctor will review your family history, as the illness tends to run in families. Your doctor might also conduct testing to see if your symptoms are being caused by other factors, such as substance abuse, thyroid problems or certain medications.
In this section we’ll discuss the methods doctors use to diagnose this mental illness. We’ll also provide helpful information for friends and family of people who have been diagnosed with this illness.
Information for Family and Friends
If one of your friends or family members has bipolar disorder, you may feel confused, angry or even guilty at times. Some people don’t know how to handle the extreme mood swings of the illness, while others become angry at their loved ones for their reckless behavior.
One of the most important things you can do for your loved one is to learn as much as possible about his condition. Knowing the symptoms, causes and triggers for the illness can help you better understand and deal with your loved one’s behavior.
Getting involved in the patient’s treatment is often beneficial to family and friends. You can help your loved one remember to take his medication on a regular basis and remind him of the importance of taking medication.
You might also find it helpful to join a support group. Support groups exist not only to help people who have bipolar disorder, but also to support the family and friends of people who are living with the condition. Ask your or your loved one’s doctor about support groups in your area.
Many online support groups also exist to help family and friends.
Bipolar Focus Staff. (n.d.) Bipolar disorder coping resources for Family Members. Retrieved July 18, 2007, from the Bipolar Focus Web site: http://www.moodswing.org/famcoping.htm.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2006). Bipolar disorder. Retrieved July 18, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bipolar-disorder/DS00356.