The Risks of Untreated Bipolar Disorder: A Comprehensive Overview

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Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. It is characterized by emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). While the condition can be managed with medication and psychotherapy, untreated bipolar disorder can lead to a range of serious problems affecting every aspect of a person’s life.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed during late adolescence or early adulthood, although symptoms can appear in childhood. The exact cause is unknown, but a combination of genetics, environment, and altered brain structure and chemistry may play a role.

There are several types of bipolar disorder, including bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder. Bipolar I is characterized by manic episodes that last at least seven days or by manic symptoms so severe that immediate hospital care is needed. Depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least two weeks. Bipolar II disorder is defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes that are typical of bipolar I disorder.

Risks of Untreated Bipolar Disorder

Untreated bipolar disorder can have a broad range of effects on various aspects of a person’s life. This includes work, relationships, and mental and physical health.

Without effective treatment, the condition can cause episodes of mania and depression. Symptoms of a manic episode involve intense excitement, excessive energy, and racing thoughts. A depressive episode can cause sadness, sleep difficulties, and low energy.

An effective treatment regimen may entail a combination of medications and psychotherapy. The risks of untreated Bipolar Disorder include:

1. Severe Mood Swings: Without treatment, individuals with bipolar disorder experience more frequent and severe episodes of mania and depression. These mood swings can disrupt personal relationships, job or school performance, and even daily activities.

2. Substance Abuse: People with untreated bipolar disorder may turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate their symptoms. This can lead to addiction, worsening mood symptoms, and other health-related issues.

3. Impaired Judgment and Risky Behavior: During manic phases, individuals may experience increased impulsivity, making risky decisions without considering the consequences. This can include reckless spending, dangerous driving, or risky sexual behavior.

4. Cognitive Difficulties: Prolonged periods of depression and mania can impact cognitive functions, such as memory, attention, and decision-making abilities. Over time, this can lead to difficulties in personal and professional settings.

5. Physical Health Problems: The extreme stress of mood swings can contribute to physical health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Additionally, the lifestyle choices associated with bipolar disorder, such as poor diet and lack of exercise, can exacerbate these issues.

6. Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders: Anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and ADHD are commonly found in people with bipolar disorder. Untreated, these conditions can compound the difficulties in managing bipolar disorder.

7. Relationship Challenges: The erratic behaviors associated with untreated bipolar disorder can strain relationships with family, friends, and coworkers. This often leads to social isolation and can exacerbate feelings of depression and hopelessness.

8. Employment and Financial Difficulties: The highs and lows of bipolar disorder can impact job performance and consistency. This may lead to job loss, financial strain, and an inability to manage personal finances.

9. Suicide and Self-Harm: Perhaps the most severe risk of untreated bipolar disorder is the increased risk of suicide and self-harm. The depressive phases of bipolar disorder can bring about feelings of worthlessness, leading to suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Managing Bipolar Disorder

Managing bipolar disorder eliminates the risks of untreated bipolar disorder. While the mental health illness is serious, it is possible to treat. A combination of medications and psychotherapy is often the go-to treatment for bipolar disorder.

Treatment options include:

1. Medication: Medications like mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants can help control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Individuals need to work closely with their doctor to find the right medication and dosage.

2. Psychotherapy: Therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can provide strategies to manage symptoms and cope with stress. Family-focused therapy helps family members understand the disorder and support their loved one.

3. Lifestyle Modifications: Regular exercise, a healthy diet, consistent sleep patterns, and avoiding alcohol and drugs can help manage bipolar disorder symptoms.

4. Support Groups: Joining a support group for people with bipolar disorder can provide a sense of community and shared experience. It can be a valuable resource for advice and encouragement.

Get Help For Bipolar Disorder Today

Bipolar disorder is a complex condition that, if left untreated, can lead to severe and potentially life-threatening complications. However, with proper treatment and support, individuals with bipolar disorder can lead fulfilling and productive lives. If you or someone you know is showing signs of bipolar disorder, it’s crucial to seek professional help. Early intervention can significantly reduce the risks associated with this condition and improve the overall quality of life. Reach out to The Healing Center’s admission team today in order to get the help that you deserve.