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How does bipolar disorder affect someone over time?

Related Topics: Bipolar Disorder

Answers From Experts & Organizations (1)

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3,054 Helpful Votes

Bipolar disorder usually lasts a lifetime. Episodes of mania and depression typically come back over time. Between episodes, many people with bipolar disorder are free of symptoms, but some people may have lingering symptoms.

Doctors usually diagnose mental disorders using guidelines from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM. According to the DSM, there are four basic types of bipolar disorder:

  1. Bipolar I Disorder is mainly defined by manic or mixed episodes that last at least seven days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, the person also has depressive episodes, typically lasting at least two weeks. The symptoms of mania or depression must be a major change from the person's normal behavior.

  2. Bipolar II Disorder is defined by a pattern of depressive episodes shifting back and forth with hypomanic episodes, but no full-blown manic or mixed episodes.

  3. Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS) is diagnosed when a person has symptoms of the illness that do not meet diagnostic criteria for either bipolar I or II. The symptoms may not last long enough, or the person may have too few symptoms, to be diagnosed with bipolar I or II. However, the symptoms are clearly out of the person's normal range of behavior.

  4. Cyclothymic Disorder, or Cyclothymia, is a mild form of bipolar disorder. People who have cyclothymia have episodes of hypomania that shift back and forth with mild depression for at least two years. However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for any other type of bipolar disorder.

Some people may be diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. This is when a person has four or more episodes of major depression, mania, hypomania, or mixed symptoms within a year. Some people experience more than one episode in a week, or even within one day. Rapid cycling seems to be more common in people who have severe bipolar disorder and may be more common in people who have their first episode at a younger age. One study found that people with rapid cycling had their first episode about four years earlier, during mid to late teen years, than people without rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Rapid cycling affects more women than men.

Bipolar disorder tends to worsen if it is not treated. Over time, a person may suffer more frequent and more severe episodes than when the illness first appeared. Also, delays in getting the correct diagnosis and treatment make a person more likely to experience personal, social, and work-related problems.

Proper diagnosis and treatment helps people with bipolar disorder lead healthy and productive lives. In most cases, treatment can help reduce the frequency and severity of episodes.

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Read the Original Article: Bipolar Disorder (Mania)

Answers from Contributors (1)

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I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have struggled, and struggled, and even though I'm on daily meds I still have trouble. This answer is from my own experience and from my heart.


People are genetically predisposed to bpd. That means we're born with it, and will die with it. There is no cure. So the first way it affects us over time is that it is a constant "cross to bear," for our entire lives, and we either cope or literally die. Suicide, risky behavior, or pissing off the wrong person during an episode of rage, are some threats to our existence. I have been dangerously near suicide four times - I remember them especially because I was serious.


Another way it affects us over time - it's like a failing marriage. Things are ok a lot of the time, but the more and more you argue with the same person about the same thing, the frustration compounds and you would do anything just to make this so-and-so go away. Well, you can get out of a bad marriage. I've been aware of my disorder for five years now, and I'm 35, so this is as far as my experience goes. I don't know how I will be at 40, 50, 60. But from the way it looks now, my strategies will have to change and become more potent if I am to survive. It is LITERALLY a constant battle, except that your sworn enemy and foe is INSIDE YOUR HEAD.


And it's SMART. It's similar to our smartphones and apps now, the ones that "learn" your search preferences, and even your voice, over time. It finds a way to use your own thoughts against you. For example, if I am going through a mixed manic-depressive episode, I believe (with ALL my heart!) that no one loves  me, that I am a failure, that I will never be ok and that I should just take myself out. It is literally temporary insanity! I am a healthy, vibrant, attractive, career-oriented single mother of a beautiful daughter, with a fully loving and supportive family, a therapist who loves me and stays on standby, and I have goals. I am a normal person. But during those times, I am absolutely certain that I am alone, that I will fail at my goals like so many times before, and that I have no reason to go on living. Its the disease. It talks to me in my head and it's hard to differentiate between the sane voice and the insane one, until the episode is over. Then I'm perfectly ok. Just like that.


Lastly, things that are affected over time are relationships with friends, family and romantic relationships, and jobs. We struggle with dealing with ourselves, so of course others who have to deal with us struggle too. I have had to re-start my career 3 times because I would build up a great rep at a job, and then eventually get fired for emotional instability. So that's where the "failure" thoughts come from - how do I know it won't happen again? Just yesterday I couldn't stop crying for four hours AT WORK, even while interacting with my co-workers. I cannot control or guide when or how intense it will be when it hits.


Hope this helps!

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