If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from bipolar disorder, it is important to get help right away. The earlier bipolar disorder is diagnosed, the better the chances for staying well. A mental health professional with experience in treating bipolar disorder can make an accurate diagnosis and help you to get started on the journey to recovery.

It should be noted that bipolar disorder cannot be cured, as it is a lifelong condition. As a result, there can be ups and downs. When this disorder is not treated, the effects can be serious. The manic and depressive episodes that occur with this condition can make it difficult to lead a productive, stable life. During the manic phase of bipolar disorder, the affected individual may be irresponsible and hyperactive. By comparison, during the depressive phase, he or she may find it difficult to function at all. With early diagnosis and treatment, such problems can be avoided.

Successful treatment of bipolar disorder will depend on a variety of factors. While medication can be helpful, it is not enough. Therapy is a critical element in treating bipolar disorder. It’s also important for you to become educated about this condition and ensure you have a strong support network. You will also need to make healthy lifestyle choices.

It will be important that you learn to discern the difference between who you really are and your symptoms. While in therapy, it will also be important for you to be open with your therapist about the way in which your illness affects your own behavior and the behaviors you would like to change.

Family and friends should be involved in your treatment when possible. When your family and friends are educated about your condition, they will be able to track your behaviors, identify symptoms, and help you to stay on track.

Staying active, getting enough sleep, and eating healthy are all important to the therapy process. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you to avoid dangerous and risky behavior.

It’s also important for you to find the right therapist and treatment for your specific needs. Everyone is different and a form of treatment that works for one person may not be the right form of treatment for you. There are many treatment options available.

Before Therapy, Obtain an Accurate Diagnosis

In order to find the treatment that is right for you, it is important that you first receive an accurate diagnosis. For many people, this is not always easy. It can be difficult to distinguish the mood swings associated with bipolar disorder from other conditions, including ADHD, major depressions, and borderline personality disorder. Many people with bipolar disorder may find it takes years before their condition is properly diagnosed.

A diagnostic exam is usually necessary in diagnosing bipolar disorder. This exam is usually comprised of:

Psychological evaluation-During this evaluation, your physician will conduct a psychiatric history. You will need to answer questions about the history of the problem, your symptoms, and any previous treatment.

Medical history and physical exam-While a lab test for diagnosing bipolar disorder does not exist, a comprehensive medical history and physical exam can help to rule out any medications or illnesses that might be contributing to your symptoms. It’s important to ensure that your symptoms are not caused by something else, such as:

  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Neurological disorders
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Medications, such as anti-anxiety drugs, corticosteroids, antidepressants

Types of Bipolar Disorder

It should be understood that there are actually different types of bipolar disorder. The different types can be categorized according to the pattern of episodes that related to depression and mania that occur.

Bipolar I Disorder

This is the most classic form of the condition. It is also the most severe. Individuals with this form of the illness experience at least one manic episode or what is referred to as a mixed episode. Most people with Bipolar I disorder also report having experienced a minimum of one major depression episode.

Bipolar II Disorder

In this form of the condition, mania is not involved. This type of the disorder involves recurring episodes of hypomania, which is milder than regular mania, and one episode of major depression during their lifetime.


This is a milder form of the condition which involves cyclical mood swings. With this form, the highs and lows of the condition are not severe enough for the individual to be diagnosed as having either major depression or mania. Instead, the individual may experience multiple periods of mild depression and hypomania during a two-year period. Individuals who are diagnosed with this form of the condition may be at risk for eventually developing full-blown bipolar disorder. As a result, they should be monitored.

Depression or Bipolar Disorder: Know the Different Symptoms

It is also important to understand that bipolar disorder is not simply depression. Many people do first seek therapy when they are in a depressed state. This is because they may not recognize that there is a problem when they are in a manic state. Any of the following could indicate that depression is actually bipolar disorder:

  • Experiencing a first episode of major depression before the age of 25
  • Experiencing repeated episodes of major depression
  • Having a first-degree relative with bipolar disorder
  • Experiencing energy and mood levels that are higher than most other people when you are not depressed
  • Oversleeping and overeating when you are depressed
  • Short-lived (less than three months) episodes of major depression

Help for Bipolar Disorder

If it is determined that you do have bipolar disorder, treatment options are available. While working with a qualified therapist, you will develop a comprehensive treatment plan that can help to relieve your symptoms, reduce the chance of recurrence, and help you to restore your ability to function. Your treatment plan may include a combination of medication, psychotherapy, education, and lifestyle management.

While the effects of bipolar disorder can be profound on both you as well as those who are close to you, therapy can help. Do not hesitate to seek the help you need now.

If you find you relate to the information in this article and would like some help, please contact Rita with Sioux Falls Wellness Counseling at (605) 610-9228.