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Calming the Swings

Calming the Swings

This article originally 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 relationships.

“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
  • Insomnia


  • 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.

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