Bipolar is a common but serious mental disorder that causes severe mood swings. If you have bipolar disorder, you’ll experience “highs” where you feel particularly full of energy and/or happy. You may even be able to go without much sleep. You’ll also experience “lows,” where you feel depressed, hopeless, or empty. Episodes of extreme mood swings can happen only rarely, or they may occur several times each year.
If you have bipolar disorder, you may have physical changes or differences in your brain that contribute to symptoms. Bipolar disorder may also have genetic causes. For example, if you have a relative who has this disorder, you may be more likely to develop it yourself.
Other risk factors for bipolar disorder include drug or alcohol abuse and periods of high stress.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder vary based on whether you’re experiencing a low or a high. During periods of low mood, you may struggle with:
Dr. Horne diagnoses bipolar disorder based on the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. To make this diagnosis, he performs a physical exam and conducts a psychiatric evaluation. He may also ask you to keep a chart of your moods over a specific period of time.
Most patients with bipolar disorder need at least one type of medication to control their symptoms and prevent severe mood swings. Depending on your individual needs, Dr. Horne may prescribe mood stabilizers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and/or anti-anxiety medications. Counseling and/or psychotherapy may also be beneficial.
If you have bipolar disorder, you’ll likely need lifelong treatment. Although you may feel better on your medication, you shouldn’t stop taking it, as your symptoms usually return
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