Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder characterized by intense emotional states known as mood episodes in which people experience drastic shifts in their mood, energy, activity and behavior. Mood episodes are much different than the normal ups and downs of normal, everyday life, as these drastic changes can lead to difficulty performing in work and school, damage relationships and increases the risk of suicide.

There are three main types of bipolar disorder that range in severity and frequency:

  • Bipolar I Disorder– characterized by one manic episode that may be preceded or followed by a hypomanic or major depressive episode; symptoms of the manic episode are present for at least seven days or are so severe that they require immediate hospital care.
  • Bipolar II Disorder– characterized by one or more depressive episodes and at least one hypomanic episode; severity of bipolar II disorder may be just as severe as bipolar I disorder.
  • Cyclothymia or cyclothymic disorder – a mild form of bipolar disorder characterized by hypomania and depression lasting for at least two years; symptoms do not ever fully meet the requirements for a manic, hypomanic or major depressive episode.

Mood episodes

Bipolar disorder is associated with mood episodes, including hypomania, mania, major depressive episodes and mixed episodes. A hypomanic episode has the same symptoms as a manic episode, but hypomania only requires that symptoms are present for four or more days. A manic episode is defined as a period of “elevated, expansive or irritable mood” that lasts at least one week and includes the following mood and behavioral changes:

  • Exaggerated confidence and self-esteem in one’s own abilities or grandiosity
  • Excessive euphoria (intense happiness, excitement or irritability)
  • Rapid or pressured speech and racing thoughts
  • Lack of fatigue or decreased need for sleep
  • Distractibility and attention problems
  • Psychomotor agitation and/or increased goal-directed activity
  • Risky and impulsive behavior

Patients who have major depressive episodes must have at least five of the following symptoms, with at least one symptom being depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure:

  • Depressed mood, hopelessness or sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Fatigue and sluggishness
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain or change in appetite
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or attempting suicide
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Psychomotor retardation (sluggishness or slowed movements) or agitation (increased motor activity)
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Difficulty thinking, focusing, remembering and making decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death and suicide

People with bipolar disorder can alternate between bouts of mania, hypomania and depression. Sometimes people experience symptoms at both ends of the spectrum simultaneously called mixed states, which are considered to be more dangerous. On the other hand, mood episodes can be so mild that they are hardly noticeable, such as in the case of hypomanic episodes and mild depressive episodes. Mood episodes can also lead to more pronounced changes and may be accompanied by hallucinations or the presence of other psychotic and mood symptoms such as anxiety.

Sovereign Health of Florida

At Sovereign Health in Fort Myers, Florida, we have a breadth of experience in treating mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. Our treatment team specializes in diagnosing co-occurring disorders, with the purpose of addressing all substance abuse, mental health and co-occurring issues. In addition to effective forms of psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychoeducational groups, we also provide therapeutic activities that aid in stabilizing mood such as yoga, meditation and more.

As part of our admissions process, patients undergo a thorough assessment, conducted by a licensed psychologist or clinician, which includes a physical examination and lab samples to rule out any co-occurring medical conditions. The mental health professional also screens for substance abuse and other mental disorders through a biopsychosocial assessment.

Medications are available for helping patients to control and manage their symptoms such as mood stabilizers (the most frequently prescribed), antidepressants and atypical antipsychotics. Mood stabilizers are often the first choice of medication used to treat bipolar disorder as they can be taken for years without many side effects. Patients will receive a psychiatric evaluation by a trained psychiatrist who will determine each patient’s need for medications.

If you would like more information regarding treatment options available for bipolar disorder or other mood disorders, please call our 24/7 helpline to speak to an admissions representative.

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