Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that involves extreme shifts in mood. Symptoms include an elevated mood called mania and then episodes of depression. Because these highs and lows can be so severe, people with bipolar disorder often have trouble managing everyday tasks like work or school. While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, this condition can be successfully managed with the right treatment.
La Ventana offers integrative treatment for individuals with bipolar disorder. We work closely with each client to find a treatment that is safe and effective. Successful treatment depends on a combination of factors, such as having a strong support system, communicating with doctors, taking medications and making healthy lifestyle choices.
Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is not a rare brain condition. Roughly 5 million people have been diagnosed with the disorder, and the majority of people show symptoms in their mid-20s. Bipolar disorders are confusing because of the extreme changes in mood.
For example, depression caused by bipolar disorder can last for weeks, whereas a manic episode might last for a day. Some people will experience these erratic moods several times a year while others only experience them on occasion.
So, how do you know when someone has bipolar disorder?
There are three main symptoms to pay attention to: mania, hypomania and depression.
- Mania. When a person is going through a manic period, they are at an all-time high. They feel excited, euphoric and full of energy. These moods can lead to impulsive decisions, such as having unprotected sex, using drugs or spending too much money.
- Hypomania. Hypomania is similar to mania, though it’s not as severe. People with hypomania can often maintain their daily schedules, but there is a noticeable change in mood.
- Depression. Depression from bipolar disorder mimics clinical depression. People may experience sadness, hopelessness, a loss of energy and suicidal thoughts for a period of time.
How Bipolar Symptoms Differ in Women
Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally. However, the symptoms often differ between the two genders. La Ventana works with women who have bipolar disorder, and we give special considerations to the following:
- Women tend to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder later in their lives, such as their 20s or 30s
- Females with bipolar disorder have milder episodes of mania, yet more frequent episodes of depression
- Women are more likely to go through rapid cycling, which is four or more episodes of mania and depression in a year
- It’s also common for women to experience other symptoms at the same time, such as obesity, anxiety, thyroid disorder or migraines
- Females with bipolar disorder have a higher lifetime risk for alcohol abuse
- Due to hormonal changes, women are also more likely to relapse
Types of Bipolar Disorder
When starting treatment at La Ventana, a proper diagnosis is important. There are different types of bipolar disorder that can influence the symptoms a person experiences. Our doctors will also rule out other potential causes of mood swings like ADHD or medication side effects.
Below are the three main types of bipolar disorder.
- Bipolar I. Bipolar I is diagnosed when a person experiences at least one manic episode. Before or after this episode, they may experience periods of depression or hypomania.
- Bipolar II. People with bipolar II disorder must have one major depressive episode that lasts for two weeks or longer and one hypomanic episode that lasts for several days. Bipolar II is more common in women.
- Cyclothymia. With cyclothymia, people have episodes of hypomania and depression. The symptoms are shorter and less intense than with bipolar I and II, and there are periods when the mood is stable.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder in Women?
Even though bipolar disorder is a common mental health disorder, researchers still have a lot to learn. Specifically, what makes some women more likely to develop bipolar disorder than others?
Here are some possible causes of bipolar disorder:
- Genetics. Some families seem to be predisposed to bipolar disorder. Studies show a 4-6 fold increased risk for first degree relatives.
- Brain. The structure of the brain can raise the risk of developing bipolar disorder. It’s possible that these abnormalities can lead to episodes of mania and depression.
- Environment. Environmental factors also raise the risk for bipolar disorder. Studies show a correlation between bipolar disorder and stress, traumatic experiences or physical illness.
Treating Bipolar Disorder at La Ventana
Bipolar disorder will not get better on its own. It must be treated with a combination of therapy and medications. The first step, however, is getting a proper diagnosis. Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose because people have shifts in mood and varying energy levels.
Also, there are specific criteria a person has to meet to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. For example, a diagnosis of bipolar I involves either one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes (both depressive and manic). A diagnosis of bipolar II involves one or more major depressive episodes and at least one episode of hypomania.
When diagnosing a client, our doctors may perform a physical exam and a mental health screening in addition to evaluating the diagnostic criteria. Once a formal diagnosis has been made, we put together an individualized treatment plan that addresses the client’s unique needs. Medications and talk therapy work best for treating bipolar disorder.
Medications are generally recommended to stabilize the mood. Some of the most common medications we prescribe are:
- Mood stabilizers
Psychotherapy is another essential element of bipolar disorder treatment. The most effective forms of psychotherapy include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoeducation and interpersonal and social rhythm therapy.
Managing bipolar disorder also involves lifestyle changes. It’s particularly important to lead a healthy, balanced life, as this will make it easier when going through stressful situations. Our doctors, nurses and counselors recommend keeping a routine, developing a strong support network and learning to recognize mood swings.
La Ventana has a number of therapies that we can teach to people living with bipolar disorder. Our clients respond well to neurofeedback, art therapy, self-care, mindfulness, yoga therapy and more. These alternative treatments are also conducive to a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
To start your journey to healing, contact La Ventana today. This is the first step in learning about bipolar disorder and how to maintain a normal, happy and healthy life.