2013 Bipolar Update
Bipolar II is a mental disorder that manifests itself in disturbed behavior. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) defines it as a condition with major depressive episodes and at least one incident of hypomania. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania which does not impair one’s daily routines or work performance.
Although bipolar types I and II have similar symptoms, the main difference is that type II persons don’t experience the manic episodes that are extremely debilitating on normal routines and relationships. Also, type II is not characterized by mixed episodes, or by psychotic symptoms such as paranoia or hallucination.
Through a detailed diagnosis, a medical professional can identify hypomania and depression, and rule out the possibility of Bipolar I. The symptoms of hypomania include high energy levels, poor sleeping patterns, unusual cheerfulness, talking a lot, racing thoughts, being distracted, decreased need for sleep, and careless behavior such as irrational spending and reckless sexual exploits. Depression is characterized by anxiety, sadness, irritability, lack of energy, sleeping and crying a lot, an unkempt appearance and suicidal thoughts.
The condition occurs equally in both men and women, and symptoms tend to appear from adolescence through the early twenties. A Bipolar II person may go through rapid mood cycling whereby the mood changes from hypo-manic to depression and back again. During the hypo-manic periods, the person is extremely happy and industrious but suddenly becomes very melancholic and withdrawn during periods of depression. In between the episodes, the person leads a perfectly normal life.
Bipolar II is treated by medication that relieves both the depressive and hypo-manic states. It is important to treat both these phases because, for example, using anti-depressants alone may augment the hypo-manic symptoms such that they degenerate into a full-blown manic state.
The medications include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, mood stabilizers and, on very rare occasions, anti-psychotic drugs. Those who have suicidal tendencies might need to be hospitalized so as to carefully treat and monitor their condition in a safe environment.
A careful balance of the various medicines will prevent the prescriptions from causing counter symptoms in the person’s mood. Quite often, several drugs must be tried out over a period of time before the right combination is found, an experience that can be quite frustrating for the patient.
Therapy for depression is another avenue of treatment that is best used in conjunction with medication. Since Bipolar II originates from a chemical imbalance in the body, therapy alone cannot eliminate the depression. However, therapy can provide the person with the skills to manage their self-awareness and relationships. Examples of bipolar therapies are psycho-education, interpersonal skills remedies, family focused programs, cognitive, light and music therapies.
Other factors such as long-term abuse are commonly found in the medical history of type II patients and these must be addressed through counseling. It has been found that using both medication and behavior therapy gives a greater success rate than medication alone.
Although Bipolar II people must continue treatment over many years, with proper medication supported by therapy, one can lead a very normal and enjoyable life.