Unfortunately in our society Bipolar Disorder is a common but very misunderstood mental illness. It can quite often be underdiagnosed – in so much as medical professionals are not always aware of the whole picture of symptoms with a patient.
It’s important that doctors and patients dig a little deeper into behaviour patterns, trigger points and symptoms to get a better picture of what is going on. This is something that family members can assist with too, observing the behaviour of their loved ones to help with arranging suitable support. Keeping a journal and writing things down is an excellent way of keeping track and this activity in itself can help patients become more mindful of trigger points and times that they feel most vulnerable, and can also instil the importance of maintaining a routine.
Depression Is Only Half of the Symptoms
If someone presents themselves as feeling low, lacking in energy and insomnia, doctors are likely to diagnose depression or even clinical depression and prescribe a course of SSRI anti-depressants. If a patient presents themselves as agitated, anxious, hyperactive or suffering from stress, they may be prescribed drugs such as Diazepam and Beta Blockers as well as a referral to a therapist, which often involves a long waiting list. In most cases, choosing a private therapist will mean that help becomes available much more quickly.
A person with Bipolar Disorder may feel low and appear depressed on some days, but euphoric the next – perhaps they’ve spent time with a friend they really like, have received some kind of praise, bought something new or won some money to make them feel good about themselves and are acting in a grandiose or impulsive manner as a result. This “manic” period can extend into delusional and erratic behaviour for a period of weeks or months, leaving the patient detached from reality, perhaps feeling suicidal and certainly struggling with day to day relationships.
Monitoring Behaviours Can Support More Relevant Choices for Treatment
In addition to feeling depressed, people suffering with the intense emotions of Bipolar Disorder often turn to recreational drugs or alcohol as a coping strategy, meaning that their true behaviours are masked and assumed to be related to drug use i.e. anger and unpredictability. It can also make therapy more challenging. It’s important to work with therapists that are experienced with substance abuse as well as the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.
Unfortunately there is no “cure” for Bipolar Disorder, simply long term management of symptoms with the right balance of care, support, therapy and medication. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can be very useful in managing emotions and irrational thoughts, and Relationship Therapy is a useful tool for families, to allow the patient to discuss how they feel about the relationships and be open about the type of support they need from loved ones, but also to give loved ones the chance to speak about how the illness affects them too.
If you or a family member have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and would like help in finding the best therapies, please contact us and we’ll be very happy to support you.