Your health
What is bipolar disorder?

By Buck Black, LCSW, LCAC

If you or someone you know appears to have problems with their mood, be sure to have a mental health assessment to get to the root of the problem.

A person with bipolar disorder has a condition that is linked to chemical imbalances in the brain. The person goes through cycles of depression (sadness and/or lack of energy) and mania (too much energy, poor decision-making, irritability and/or racing thoughts). A significant portion of people with bipolar disorder also have moderate to high levels of anger and substance abuse.

For those who have anger stemming from bipolar disorder, it can range from mild to severe. Often, there is no particular trigger that sets off anger. The person may simply wake up feeling angry. In other instances, the person may be sensitive to particular actions that do not invoke anger for the majority of people. In some cases a person will significantly overreact in a very angry manner to an event that the majority of people will find only an irritation or inconvenience.

It is accepted that most people with bipolar disorder need medication to help correct chemical imbalances in the brain. Therapy is often helpful because thoughts, environment and social/family support are all important factors in helping the person’s mood. In most cases, a person with bipolar disorder will have the most success when participating in therapy and taking medication at the same time.

Various types of therapy and medications have been shown to reduce bipolar disorder symptoms. Keep in mind that each person will respond to therapy and medications in different ways. A prescription that helps one person with bipolar disorder does not necessarily help the next. This also holds true for therapy.

Anger management can be very beneficial for some. However, there is often the need for CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), which has a focus on changing negative or angry thoughts to positive thoughts, as well as helping the person to develop more positive behaviors. Therapy is also useful to help the clients identify their own strengths, as well as members of their support system. Focusing on these strengths and supports allows clients to have additional means of coping with anger and other symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Self-care needs to be a priority. This means keeping all therapy and doctor appointments, taking all medications as prescribed, and also being an active participant in therapy sessions.

Outside of doctor’s and therapist’s offices, it is important to make sure that you are taking part in some kind of activity, whether it be interacting with family, going to social events, exercising, or participating in a hobby you enjoy. There are great community resources in most areas, such as free support groups at MentalHealthAmerica.net.

Many people believe that turning to someone else for assistance or advice, or simply to bounce ideas off of is a sign of weakness. This simply is not true. Because women, in general, are more likely to consult with others they are often in better health than men. Women usually know how to take care of themselves, and guys need to learn from them. This is probably why women live several years longer than men on average.

It is important to point out that it may look as if someone has bipolar disorder when it is their alcohol and other drug use that is causing the mood swings. To make it more complicated, a person with bipolar disorder is more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs.

Again, if you or someone you are close to have these mood swings, be sure to get to the root of the problem with the correct diagnosis. LL

Buck Black is a licensed clinical social worker therapist who specializes in helping truckers and their families with anger and stress management, as well as depression and relationship problems. He does this over the phone, and Skype at TruckerTherapy.com. This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Please remember everyone's health situation is different. If you have questions regarding medical issues, consult your personal physician.