Dangers of Untreated Bipolar Disorder

Support Groups Help Bipolar Disorder

A recent news story about a Florida man who entered a school board meeting with a gun underscores the problem of undiagnosed mental illness.  The gunman, Clay Duke, shot at and missed several people before being shot by a security guard and then taking his own life.  News reports suggest that Duke was upset about his wife being fired from a position in the school district.  It has also been suggested that he was suffering from untreated Bipolar Disorder, a serious psychiatric condition that causes unpredictable fluctuations in mood and emotions.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 6 million adults in the U.S. suffer from Bipolar Disorder, which is also referred to as Manic Depression.  This is about 3% of the total population over the age of 18.  Only 51% of people with Bipolar Disorder receive treatment, despite that fact that most experience severe symptoms and major disruptions in functioning.

When left untreated, the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder will often increase in severity and may lead to suicide; there is a high suicide rate for people with the disorder.  When treated, it’s possible to control the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and enjoy a more stable and fulfilling life.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression

Everyone experiences fluctuations in mood.  These ups and downs are part of life’s normal flow.  For people with Bipolar Disorder, mood fluctuations are extreme.  A feeling of high productivity and energy which is referred to a mania may suddenly turn into feelings of sadness and depression.

These are some of the symptoms of mania (different people will experience different sets of symptoms);

  • Abnormally elevated mood and feelings of euphoria
  • High energy and a feeling of restlessness
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Rapid speech and racing thoughts
  • Lack of good judgment and risky behaviors
  • Insomnia

These are the symptoms of depression (not all people affected by Bipolar Disorder experience depression):

  • Persistent sadness or anxiety
  • Low energy level and a feeling of fatigue
  • Excessive sleep or insomnia
  • Lack of appetite
  • Thoughts of death and suicide
  • Diminished interest in normal activities

Bipolar Disorder is classified according to the pattern of mood fluctuation.  Type I involves at least one full manic episode that caused abnormal behavior.  Type II is marked by cycling between mania and depression over a period of time.  There is also a type of Bipolar Disorder referred to as Rapid Cycling, where four or more major mood swings occur within a year.  Between 10 and 20 percent of Bipolar Disorder cases involve Rapid Cycling.

Bipolar Disorder and Psychosis

During severe episodes of mania or depression, a complete break with reality may occur.  This break is referred to as psychosis.  It may be accompanied by delusions and auditory or visual hallucinations.  People in a psychotic state are capable of performing acts of violence on themselves and others and should be hospitalized.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a chronic condition that requires continuous monitoring and treatment.  It is most commonly treated with a combination of medication (including mood stabilizers and antidepressants), psychotherapy and admission to a psychiatric treatment facility.  The goal of treatment is a reduction in the number of episodes of mania and depression, giving the patient the chance to live a happy and productive life.

Even during periods of remission, maintenance treatment for Bipolar Disorder is extremely important.  Without ongoing treatment, a small mood change may spiral into a manic or depressive episode.  Alcohol and drug abuse will increase the severity of Bipolar Disorder, so these problems must also be treated.

Recovering from substance use disorders is a challenging journey that feels more doable in an environment that tends to each individual’s complex needs and strengths. Our goal is to foster a treatment experience that is built on compassion, hope, and caring, and fueled by excellence in the provision of evidence-based and trauma-informed care.

– - Anonymous