This article orginally appeared in the
Winter 2018 edition of HealthLINK Magazine.
Bipolar disorder can be debilitating—but it’s also treatable
Anyone can have an irritable or moody day, but bipolar disorder—or
manic-depressive illness—causes severe mood shifts that interfere
with an individual’s ability to work, function at home and maintain
“Bipolar refers to the extreme poles in mood possibilities, either
having an episode of depression or an episode of what we call mania,”
explains psychiatrist Louis J. Nardelli, DO. “The mood change comes
in the form of an episode, so it isn’t typically situational. It
can last for days or even weeks.”
- Sadness, hopelessness or suicidal thoughts
- Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Increased energy and lack of need for sleep
- Euphoria or extreme irritability
- Disorganized and at times reckless goal-directed behavior
- A heightened sense of self-importance
Recognizing the Triggers:
Certain things, like stress, can be a trigger. “Because bipolar disorder
usually has the onset during adolescence, pulling all-nighters for class
wouldn’t be wise,” Dr. Nardelli says. “Experimenting
with drugs is also not a good idea for someone who has bipolar family
history or is predisposed to mood disorders.”
The Right Diagnosis:
Bipolar disorder can’t be diagnosed using brain scans or lab tests.
Doctors review a patient’s symptoms and family history, following
a guide called the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. By definition, bipolar type 1 (history of mania) causes a loss of functioning
in one’s life during the episode.
Only one-third of those with bipolar disorder seek treatment, which is
unfortunate because most of those treated experience a remission of symptoms.
During treatment, the goal is to help stabilize the patient’s mood
so they can return to the level of functioning they had before the bipolar
episode occurred. Treatment is individualized, but physicians often prescribe
a mood stabilizer.
Unfortunately, the stigma of mental illness keeps many from speaking to
their doctor. “Movies can portray behavioral health units in a skewed
manner,” Dr. Nardelli says. “But therapists, doctors and nurses
care very much about those with mental health needs in our community.”
Valley Health has two inpatient behavioral health units—one for adults
(18 years and older) and another for senior adults (55 years and older)—offering
care for patients with acute psychiatric needs. Outpatient mental health
services are also offered for seniors and adults.
valleyhealthlink.com/bhs for more information.