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A person with Bipolar Disorder experiences extreme high and low moods

Posted at 2:27 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 16:35:53-04

As part of our You Are Not Alone campaign with NAMI Utah we talked about the symptoms and treatments for Bipolar Disorder.

Rob Wesemann, Executive Director of NAMI Utah, says the extreme high and low moods of someone with Bipolar Disorder are different from typical ups and downs.

He says to be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, a person must have experienced at least one episode of mania or hypomania.

Hypomania is a milder form of mania that doesn't include psychotic episodes.

People with hypomania can often function well in social situations or at work.

Some people with bipolar disorder will have episodes of mania or hypomania many times throughout their life; others may experience them only rarely.

Although someone with bipolar may find an elevated mood of mania appealing—especially if it occurs after depression—the "high" does not stop at a comfortable or controllable level.

Moods can rapidly become more irritable, behavior more unpredictable and judgment more impaired. During periods of mania, people frequently behave impulsively, make reckless decisions and take unusual risks.

Most of the time, people in manic states are unaware of the negative consequences of their actions.

With bipolar disorder, suicide is an ever-present danger because some people become suicidal even in manic states.

Learning from prior episodes what kinds of behavior signals "red flags" of manic behavior can help manage the symptoms of the illness.

The lows of bipolar depression are often so debilitating that people may be unable to get out of bed.

Typically, people experiencing a depressive episode have difficulty falling and staying asleep, while others sleep far more than usual.

When people are depressed, even minor decisions such as what to eat for dinner can be overwhelming.

They may become obsessed with feelings of loss, personal failure, guilt or helplessness; this negative thinking can lead to thoughts of suicide.

The depressive symptoms that obstruct a person's ability to function must be present nearly every day for a period of at least two weeks for a diagnosis.

Depression associated with bipolar disorder may be more difficult to treat and require a customized treatment plan.

Wesemann says the causes include genetics, family history and stress.

There are medications that help treat it, and so does psychotherapy and self management (symptom recognition and education about the condition) and complimentary health approaches like exercise and meditation. Healthy lifestyle activities can help support treatment, but is not a substitute.

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If you or someone you love is in need of suicide prevention support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit

You can also text TALK to 741741.