Bipolar 1 Disorder

Awake Therapy's Clinical Director, Jourdan Travers, LCSW, discusses Bipolar 1 Disorder diagnosis and treatment.

By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | November 5, 2021

Has anyone ever said to you, "You're so bipolar" or you've wondered to yourself, "How do I tell if I'm bipolar?" Well, that's what I'd like to discuss in this article: the signs, symptoms, causes, and treatment of Bipolar 1 Disorder. Because, yes, there are different types of bipolar disorders and it's worth educating yourself on the differences if you suspect you or someone you know may be suffering from bipolar disorder.

Okay, so let's jump into it.

Diagnosing Bipolar 1 Disorder

Many of us falsely assume that we have bipolar disorder because we go through mood swings or shifts throughout the day, sometimes rapidly. However, having daily mood swings is not the only diagnostic criterion for Bipolar I Disorder. The defining features of Bipolar I are manic highs and depressive lows that last for a period of a week or more.

I've had many patients report a false belief of being bipolar because they felt overly excited or had difficulty sleeping for one or a couple of nights during the week. Or they self-diagnose themselves as having Bipolar 1. But feeling a wave of excitement or energy doesn't mean you're bipolar, it means that you're a human going through a normal emotional spectrum. The truth is that bipolar mood swings affect pretty much every aspect of our lives like sleep, energy levels, activity, judgment, and our ability to think. The feelings, behaviors, and emotions that therapists like myself pay attention to that alert us of mania include:

  • Poor decision making such as:
    • Engaging in abnormally sexually risky or suggestive behavior
    • Spending exorbitant amounts of money
  • Exaggerated self-confidence, like feeling untouchable or invincible
  • Racing thoughts (i.e., a range of thoughts happening simultaneously, sometimes called a "flight of ideas)
  • And going a week or more with little to no sleep

You might be wondering, when is Bipolar I Disorder typically first diagnosed? Bipolar I can affect any gender or age and it is typically first diagnosed in the late teens and early twenties.

It's not something that will just disappear or go away on its own. Individuals with bipolar disorder have it for the rest of their lives.

Bipolar 1 Treatment Planning

Bipolar 1 Disorder responds well to things like psychotherapy and medication and, again, treatment is lifelong. In fact, usually one of the main treatment goals for individuals with bipolar disorder is medication management.

You might be wondering, "Why is medication management important?" It is because mania feels really good (we call it a manic "high" for a reason). But after a certain point, it can feel exhausting. It's often stressful because patients are aware of what comes at the end of a manic high, which is a depressive low. And many of the symptoms that follow a bipolar depressive low include:

  • Feeling sad, empty, hopeless, tearful
  • No interest or pleasure in doing activities that normally bring you joy
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty getting out of bed
  • Sleeping too much
  • Excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Thinking about, planning, or attempting suicide

It's important to know that many individuals with Bipolar 1 don't realize they're bipolar due to a fear of speaking to a professional and how it could impact or interfere with their life. And although we don't know the exact causes of bipolar disorder, if left untreated it has been shown to negatively impact individuals lives, causing issues such as:

  • Addiction and substance use
  • Suicide or attempted suicide
  • Legal and financial problems
  • Damaged relationships
  • Poor work and school performance

That's all for now. I hope you found this synopsis helpful and informative. Remember, the content addressed in these articles is educational in nature and is not meant to substitute for individualized psycho-therapy. If you need mental health assistance — whether to address a current issue or create a more prosperous, fulfilling life — go to the link below and schedule an initial consultation with me or another member of the Awake Therapy team today.