Mental Illness with Dramatic Mood Episodes

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that can dramatically impact your mood. Patients with bipolar disease may experience manic symptoms of high energy or depressive, irritable moods. With proper treatment, many patients can prevent these episodes from taking place.

The Penn State Health team – consisting of psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, social workers and nurses – has extensive experience in diagnosing evaluating and treating bipolar patients. We are committed to putting your mental health as a priority and will work closely with you to find the best treatment path.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Patients with bipolar disorder can experience a range of symptoms for both manic and depressive episodes.

Manic episode symptoms may include:

  • Concerns about things that are not true (delusions)
  • Easily distracted
  • Excessive involvement in activities
  • False beliefs about yourself or your abilities
  • Irritable mood
  • Lack of self-control
  • Lack of temper regulation
  • Little need for sleep
  • Poor judgement
  • Racing thoughts
  • Rapid speech
  • Reckless behavior
  • Self-destructive behaviors

Depressive episode symptoms may include:

  • Daily low mood
  • Disinterest in friends or activities that you once enjoyed
  • Eating problems, either loss of appetite or overeating
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Lack of enjoyment in activities
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Problems concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Sadness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

At Penn State Health, we are experts in mental health diseases. We use the American Psychiatric Association’s bipolar disorder criteria to determine if manic episodes are occurring, as well as the frequency and duration of each episode.

Our mental health team is here to help if you or a loved one is struggling with symptoms of bipolar disorder. During your appointment, your physician might do the following to help diagnose your bipolar disorder:

  • Ask about any recent and significant mood swings
  • Ask if there is a family history of bipolar disorder
  • Discuss medical history and any health issues
  • Order bloodwork to check for other illnesses that cause similar symptoms
  • Perform a physical exam
  • Review how long you’ve been experiencing mood swings
  • Talk to family members or caregivers about your moods and overall health
  • Watch your behavior and mood

With the appropriate medical care and a treatment plan in place, bipolar patients can achieve a balanced lifestyle. Medication management will help stabilize your moods and regulate the extreme changes in your activity and energy levels. Ask a family member or trusted friend to help keep you accountable for taking your daily medication.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

We’ll Help Find the Best Medication Combination

Bipolar disorder is generally treated with mood-stabilizing medications. Many of these drugs are used in combination with each other. Medications we prescribe at Penn State Health may include:

  • Lithium: Lithium is the primary medication used for bipolar disorder. It is usually the first drug prescribed.
  • Certain types of glutamate-reducing medications: These can include valproic acid (Depakene), divalproex sodium (Depakote) and lamotrigine (Lamictal).
  • Certain types of dopamine-blocking medications: including risperidone, quetiapine, ziprasidone, aripiprazole, lurasidone or clozapine.
  • Certain types of antidepressants that affect the serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine systems: In some cases, these may be prescribed for depressive episodes. However, in some patients, antidepressants can also trigger mania.

Compassionate Care for an Unpredictable Illness

At Penn State Health, we know that bipolar disorder is a recurrent disease that can be unpredictable. We are committed to creating a treatment plan that helps to treat and reduce the severity of your bipolar episodes of mania or depression. We also work to reduce the frequency of episodes and help you avoid cycling from one phase to another. It’s our goal to help our patients become as functional as possible between episodes.

Comprehensive Treatment Options

Penn State Health offers inpatient, partial (day) hospital and outpatient services to help treat bipolar disorder. Our strong commitment to research means that we have the latest tools and techniques available to our patients. Treatment choice depends on the degree and type of bipolar disorder, as well as any other medical conditions. At Penn State Health, our patients are fully involved in all treatment decisions.

Neuromodulation Evaluation and Treatment

Penn State Health offers our patients neuromodulation evaluation and treatment, which includes electroconvulsive therapy and vagus nerve stimulation. This option can be lifesaving for patients if their medication treatments are not effective.

Evidence-Based Psychotherapy

At Penn State Health, we offer our patients a variety of evidence-based psychotherapy treatment options for bipolar disorder. These include cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, interpersonal social rhythm therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy in individual or group settings.

Support Groups

Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other parents and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

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