Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain.
Contrary to popular opinion, it is not just mood swings between happy and sad throughout the day. The symptoms of Bipolar disorder are much more extreme, and come in cycles that usually last between one and two weeks.
Bipolar disorder describes a pattern of depressed and manic episodes. Depressed episodes are often marked by depressed mood, changes sleeping and eating habits, crying spells, excessive guilt, low self-worth and sometimes thoughts of death and manic episodes.
The best known symptom of mania is an extreme increase in energy and happiness, but in some people it may present as an increase in irritability and anger. Other signs of manic episodes include racing thoughts, pressured speech, inflated self-esteem to the point of grandiosity, distractibility and an increase in goal-directed behaviors. In a manic state, an individual may also feel the need to engage, often impulsively, in high risk behaviors, and may go days at a time without sleeping or feeling the need to sleep.
Mental illness is often stigmatized, especially bipolar disorder. People tend to believe that individuals with bipolar disorder are violent and unable to maintain control of their own feelings and behaviors, but this is very untrue for the vast majority of cases.
By becoming educated about the disorder and seeking help through therapy, mood stabilizing medications and support groups, many individuals with bipolar disorder lead healthy, flourishing lives as they continue to work, go to school, and engage with their families, friends and community.
Our area is fortunate, as Cone Health has an exceptional network of behavioral healthcare providers dedicated to treating individuals in the community suffering from bipolar disorder, depression and other behavioral health conditions.
Regina Alexander is a licensed counselor at Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital, specializing in mood disorders. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Greensboro College in 2002, and earned a Master of Social Work from the joint program at University of North Carolina Greensboro and North Carolina A&T University in 2007.