Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive disorder or manic depression, is a psychiatric disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out everyday tasks. It is a serious mental illness requiring specialized treatment, but the problem, according to Kimberly Dennis, M.D., medical director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, is that bipolar disorder often gets misdiagnosed by professionals and is unrecognized by loved ones.
“Bipolar disorder commonly co-occurs with other illnesses and addictions, making it hard to diagnose without a thorough diagnostic workup that includes looking at substance/drug abuse and use, and an evaluation for possible early life trauma both of which can produce symptoms that look like bipolar disorder,” said Dr. Dennis. “Many times, residents come to Timberline Knolls with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but once evaluated are properly diagnosed with a drug abuse problem, which looks similar to bipolar disorder when an individual is going through stages of intoxication and withdrawal. Additionally, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be missed by professionals who think the patient is just suffering from substance abuse or dependence.”
Not only do professionals miss the diagnosis, but loved ones and family members many times do not recognize the real problem either because they do not know what bipolar disorder is, or because they are focused on something else, such as a co-occurring drug abuse problem.
Signs of bipolar disorder in its manic state include:
— extended periods of feeling overly happy or outgoing
— extremely irritable mood, agitation, or jumpiness
— being easily distracted
— little to no sleep for several days in a row without feeling tired
— having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
— behaving impulsively
— suicide attempts
Signs of bipolar disorder in its depressive state include:
— isolation from friends and family
— loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
— feeling tired or slowed down
— having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
— abuse of alcohol and drugs, especially cocaine
— dependence on sleeping pills
A correct diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and ensuring the appropriate treatment is offered, is critical for those who face and treat bipolar disorder and co-occurring disorders. People with this illness can achieve long-term physical, emotional and spiritual recovery. Dr. Dennis encourages everyone to remember this is a disease, and the individual did not choose to have the disease. Sufferers can choose to get treatment and recover. Help is available and manageability is possible when someone is connected to the right support system and specialized treatment is sought.