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Bipolar disorders affect approximately 4.4% of American adults at some point in their lives, with an estimated 2.8% experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Bipolar disorders most commonly manifest in young adulthood, and they affect men and women nearly equally. These disorders currently do not have a single clear cause. Depending on the severity of an individual’s symptoms, bipolar disorders can be difficult to diagnose — often, signs of bipolar disorder will slowly come and go over the course of many years, leading an individual to ignore their concerns or ascribe them to something else.

Bipolar disorders of all types can be problematic enough to prevent an individual from leading a normal and fulfilling life. When symptoms arise, it becomes difficult or impossible for an individual to predict their moods or energy levels. Everyday activities and responsibilities may be forgotten or abandoned, and behavior may become erratic or defined by mood swings. Without a diagnosis or a plan of action to manage symptoms, an individual may struggle for years to understand why they aren’t able to stay in control of their feelings and behaviors. There are fortunately many ways to learn to manage bipolar disorders of all types — but first, you must take the step of asking for help to identify your concerns and get the treatment that’s right for you.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorders are affective or mood disorders characterized by unpredictable, sometimes drastic shifts in mood, energy or activity levels. It is also called manic-depressive disorder or manic depression, because bipolar mood swings are known as manic or depressive episodes. Depending on the type of bipolar disorder that an individual has, these episodes can last days, weeks, months or years, and can be very sudden and intense or can shift more slowly. Manic episodes include high energy, erratic behavior, attention and concentration problems and extreme positivity or elation; while depressive episodes bring lethargy or exhaustion, sadness, forgetfulness, hopelessness and lack of motivation.

There are four general types of bipolar disorder, outlined here:

Signs of bipolar disorder are often noticed by friends or family members rather than by individuals with symptoms themselves. From within, it’s difficult to view your actions or moods objectively; you simply feel how you feel, and even if you have a sense that your moods are different than they should be, it can be hard to put a finger on why. But as a loved one to someone who seems to be struggling with manic and depressive episodes, you should encourage them to seek help if you believe that their mood swings are becoming a pattern or if they are impacting their ability to live day-to-day life.

Bipolar Disorder and Underlying Causes

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can be triggered or exacerbated by external pressures such as difficult life events or substance use. Scientists have identified brain structure and function as one of the main risk factors for bipolar disorder; experiencing something — like a traumatic incident or extreme stress — that alters the way your brain reacts to everyday stimuli could play a part in bipolar symptoms. Research also shows that bipolar disorder and substance abuse, in particular, often go hand in hand — among other reports over the years, a 2006 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology estimates that up to 70% of those who meet diagnostic criteria for any bipolar disorder have also abused drugs and/or alcohol. While abusing drugs or alcohol may be an attempt to self-medicate against bipolar disorder, the mind-altering effects of abusing psychoactive substances will only serve to worsen symptoms in the long run.

If you or your loved one is dealing with bipolar disorder or manic-depressive episodes, it’s important to seek treatment with professionals who are trained to help address more than just the symptoms of a mental health disorder. There are many options available that will help with bipolar disorder as well as any accompanying concerns or underlying causes. This kind of treatment can ensure that you can find ways to manage the symptoms of the disorder and prevent them from getting worse again.

Treating and Managing Bipolar Disorder at The Guest House

The Guest House is dedicated to providing the kind of holistic healing that allows individuals to find long-lasting recovery from mental health concerns or substance abuse. While problems like bipolar disorder or addiction are chronic illnesses that don’t truly have a cure, it is possible for anyone to learn ways to keep them at bay and to be prepared for times when symptoms flare up. Our programs utilize evidence-based and experiential therapies within an individualized treatment model; we work closely with each client to identify their unique background, needs and concerns and develop a customized treatment plan that will help them heal in a way that works just for them.

It is our goal to help you get in control of your bipolar disorder and to learn the best techniques to cope with your symptoms as you regain your independence. Whether you are just discovering your diagnosis or you have been trying to find methods that work for you for some time, The Guest House is here to help. Our expert team of licensed counselors, certified therapists and experienced support staff will be here to welcome you as you take your next step on your journey of healing.