Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder used to be known as manic-depressive disorder, a name that described the two polar opposite manifestations of the illness: a depressive stage which is either preceded or followed by a manic, hyperactive stage.  The new name for this serious mental health condition reflects the bipolarity (cycling through) of the symptoms, that is, the radically different emotions that can be experienced and the contradictory behaviors that can be exhibited by the same individual.  It is a disorder that requires specialized treatment, often with a combination of psychotherapy (primarily cognitive-behavioral therapy) and appropriate medication.

Major types

Bipolar I Disorder (cycles from deep depression to full mania)

Bipolar II Disorder (cycles from full depression to hypomania)

Cyclothymic Disorder

Substance/medication-induced Bipolar and related disorder

Bipolar and related disorder due to another medical condition

What is bipolar disorder?

The Bipolar I Disorder criteria represent the modern understanding of the classic manic-depressive disorder or affective psychosis described in the nineteenth century, differing from that classic description only to the extent that neither psychosis nor the lifetime experience of a major depressive episode is a requirement. However, the vast majority of individuals whose symptoms meet the criteria for a fully syndromal manic episode also experience major depressive episodes during the course of their lives. 

Bipolar II Disorder, requiring the lifetime experience of at least one episode of major depression and at least one hypomanic episode, is no longer thought to be a “milder” condition than bipolar I disorder, largely because of the amount of time individuals with this condition spend in depression and because the instability of mood experienced by individuals with bipolar II disorder is typically accompanied by serious impairment in work and social functioning. –American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.

Get help

To make an appointment with Dr. Z, call (678) 554-5632 or click the blue button to request an appointment using the online form. We can go over your current situation, identify the ways in which the highs and lows of bipolar disorder are affecting your life and that of your loved ones, or how current conflicts or low functioning are impairing important relationships. We will put some dimensions to the problem, and identify your current resources that may be applied toward meaningful and lasting change. If additional resources and skills are needed, we will treat your severe symptoms with CBT and help you feel calmer and increase your ability to choose the most appropriate response to each situation. Treating bipolar disorder is feasible, it’s proven to be effective, and has helped many people who had a variety of different symptoms and challenges. Call and make your appointment today and we can get started!

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A challenging diagnosis

An accurate diagnosis of Bipolar I or Bipolar II Disorder can only be done by clinicians who are trained and experienced in recognizing and diagnosing psychiatric conditions, as well as general medical conditions that may cause a mood disorder which looks like but is not, in fact, bipolar I or II disorder. An accurate clinical history is essential to making a sound diagnosis. Whenever possible this history should be obtained not only from the patient but also from a relative or a close friend who has known the patient well for at least three years years.The most significant challenge problem in obtaining an accurate history is that many people do not recognize or do not report manic (severe) or hypomanic (less severe) episodes. In fact, patients often do not seek treatment when they feel manic or hypomanic, and tend to seek treatment only when they feel depressed. Unfortunately, a depressive episode by itself cannot help distinguish between Bipolar I or II and major depressive disorders. It is therefore crucial to carefully examine the patient’s history of symptoms, since misdiagnosis can have serious consequences: the wrong medication may be prescribed, the prognosis may be under- or overestimated, and the patient will suffer.The three most common diagnostic errors are:mistaking recurrent major depressive episodes for normal reactions to life’s difficulties,failing to detect manic or hypomanic episodes, andjudging the patient to have schizophrenia instead of bipolar disorder with psychotic features during manic, mixed manic, or major depressive episodes.Finally, it is not at all uncommon for patients with bipolar disorder to abuse alcohol, abuse stimulants (amphetamines, cocaine), or take other substances in an attempt to lessen or control the most unpleasant symptoms. For many individuals, these substances make matters worse and can precipitate specific episodes of either mania or depression.