According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population age 18 and older every year.” To help understand bipolar disorder I have interviewed Dr. Stacy Carmichael.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in the Tampa Bay/Clearwater, Florida area. I received my doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Florida Department of Clinical & Health Psychology. I am also the proud mother of a happy and sweet 10-year-old boy with autism.”
What is bipolar disorder?
“Bipolar disorder is a psychological condition in which a person’s mood and behaviors vacillate enough to cause a problem in their social, emotional, academic, occupational, relational or other area of functioning in daily life. In the past, it was often referred to as manic-depression, as symptoms involve fluctuations between depressed mood states and periods of more extremely heightened moods or energy levels. Bipolar disorder is more than simply being “moody” but is chronic and interferes with an individual’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis.”
What are the signs and symptoms of someone who has bipolar disorder?
“People with bipolar disorder (i.e., at polar ends of the spectrum of mood stability) are differentiated from those who have only uni-polar depression by cycles of mood states involving both the symptoms of depression (which include sadness, sleeping problems, irritability, hopelessness, helplessness and possible thoughts of suicide) and periods of mania. People in the throws of mania may feel euphoric, energetic and productive, and may have difficulty recognizing that they are having activity patterns that are more extreme than everyday, normal mood fluctuations. Adults in a manic episode often report feeling as though they do not need sleep, racing thoughts, which shift rapidly from topic to topic, and feeling as though they can do anything. They may talk rapidly, act on edge or agitated, start working on many new goal-directed activities and may tend to be impulsive or reckless in behaviors surrounding money, sex or other acts of self-gratification.
At an emotional extreme, individuals may suffer from suicidal thoughts, and may act on them in a outburst of energy or a fall into darkness. This may also occur during an episode called a mixed state, where a person shows symptoms of both depression and mania.”
What type of impact does bipolar disorder have on a person’s life?
“Bipolar disorder can be devastating if it remains unchecked, as the person affected often experiences such drastic lows and highs that they often feel as though treatment is not necessary during the upswing of the disorder and not seek help in a low point due to the difficulties with motivation that depression can bring. Often it is those around the individual with bipolar disorder, such as spouses or children, that see the effects of grandiosity in thinking with regard to work or home projects without sufficient follow though, the toll that sleeping and eating problems have on their loved one, and the impact of impulsive behaviors that may be harmful, such as gambling, drug or alcohol use, or excessive spending sprees.”
What type of help is available for someone who has bipolar disorder?
“Bipolar disorder involves complex chemical reactions at the level of the neurons and typically is treated by a psychiatrist for prescription of mood stabilizers, which does require intense monitoring. Research supports a mutli-modal approach to treating bipolar disorder, with both medication management and supportive work with a psychotherapist. Patients will greatly benefit from concurrent work with a psychologist or therapist for cognitive behavior therapy. The goal is to provide patient and family psycho-education and skills for coping with shifts in mood states, help with mood tracking and identification of problematic thought patterns, situations or behaviors that may contribute to the initiation or the maintenance of an unwelcome mood state, improve relationships that may have been disrupted as a result and help the patient’s support system work together towards the goal of treatment with recognition of the challenges involved.”
What advice would you like to leave for someone who has bipolar disorder?
“There’s no longer stigma in seeking treatment for bipolar disorder and the research indicates the earlier the disorder is identified the better, as earlier treatment leads to more favorable outcomes. The individual may feel most comfortable seeing his/her primary care physician initially to make sure moods, changes in sleeping, eating and other behaviors or related difficulties, such as anxiety, are not the result of a physical problem. Consultations with both a psychologist and a psychiatrist for diagnostic clarification, medication management and psychotherapy will likely help to reduce the number and frequency of problematic episodes and will hopefully reduce the negative impact on the lives of the individual and their families and improve management of the disease in the future.”
Thank you Dr. Stacy Carmichael for the interview. If you would like more information on Dr. Stacy Carmichael you can check out her website at www.CentralFloridaPsychologist.com.