Bipolar disorder is a debilitating, life-altering mental health disorder. Each year, its symptoms will affect nearly six million American adults, which represents about 2.6 percent of the U.S. adult population.1
But this number is deceptive, because trends show that bipolar disorder is becoming more prevalent. According to statistics compiled by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the lifetime incidence of bipolar disorder for Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 is 5.9 percent, and that is easily the highest rate of incidence for any age-related demographic group.2
People dealing with bipolar disorder face significant emotional and psychological disruptions and discontinuities. Bipolar disorder causes sharp mood swings between depression and mania, the latter defined as an excessive and uncontrollable euphoria.
Mental health experts have identified five types of bipolar disorder:
Bipolar sufferers may experience periods of normalcy, when their emotional equilibrium returns for days, weeks or even months. But without treatment, these respites will only be temporary, and eventually the symptoms of bipolar disorder (either depression or mania) will return in full force.
Most people who suffer from bipolar disorder experience depressive states more often than manic states. When depression does develop it tends to last longer than mania (by a margin of 6-12 months versus 3-6 months in bipolar I, where the symptoms of each are experienced more acutely).3 For the most part bipolar depression is indistinguishable from clinical depression, except for its temporary and cyclical nature.
The distinguishing symptoms of bipolar depression include:
Bipolar depression is usually more disabling than bipolar mania, and most people who seek treatment for the symptoms of bipolar disorder do so while in the grips of a depressive state. This can lead to a misdiagnosis of major depression in people who either don’t report their past manic symptoms or have not yet experienced a manic state.
Bipolar mania and hypomania generally don’t last as long as bipolar depression, and their symptoms are not as painful and unpleasant. But manic states can be exhausting and unrelenting, wearing sufferers out and leaving them desperate to escape.
The most common symptoms of bipolar mania include:
Bipolar psychosis is an especially worrying condition, and one of the primary reasons why people experiencing manic symptoms end up being hospitalized. Hypomania is not as uncomfortable and disruptive as mania, but at times its symptoms may escalate beyond expectations.
Bipolar disorder is primarily an adult condition (the median age of onset is 25), but adolescents and children do experience bipolar symptoms as well.
Studies show that about one percent of teens between the ages of 14 and 18 suffer from bipolar disorder each year.4 Oftentimes those who do are misdiagnosed with depression: estimates are that up to one-third of young people diagnosed with depression are actually suffering from the early symptoms of bipolar depression.5
In children, bipolar disorder is not overly common, and when it does manifest it is often misdiagnosed as ADHD. This can be a problem, since drugs given to kids for ADHD symptoms can trigger troubling outbreaks of intense manic symptoms.
While children are not frequently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, kids whose parents suffer from it should be closely monitored, since bipolar disorder does run in families.
Once an accurate diagnosis has been made, bipolar disorder is highly treatable and the chances of recovery for patients committed to healing is excellent. Unfortunately, many people turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate when their mental health disorders go undiagnosed, which explains why approximately 50-60 percent of men and women experiencing the symptoms of bipolar disorder will also struggle with substance use disorders.6
At Transformations Treatment Center, we specialize in traditional 12-step and Christian dual diagnosis treatment programs. Our counselors and therapists will work with you to create a comprehensive, individualized, evidence-based treatment plan to put you on a path to sustainable and lasting recovery.