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Bipolar Treatment Centers and Programs

More Than a Mood Swing

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder, characterized by depressive symptoms and manic symptoms, usually in two distinct phases. These phases can last weeks or months and are episodic. The symptoms come and go, although long-term treatment can make them rarer, and even cause a total remission of symptoms in teens.

Bipolar disorder is often mistaken for a series of intense mood swings or uncontrolled, impulsive behavior. However, while most people think of a bipolar disorder as a case of acute split personalities or behaviors, it is often more complicated.

Most teens diagnosed with bipolar disorder are experiencing a single set of symptoms for months at a time, and only experience a shift in symptoms up to three times a year. While rapid-cycling bipolar cases exist, they are rarer, and most teens with bipolar disorder find themselves struggling with a consistent mood problem, rather than vicious mood swings.

Depressive symptoms are a big part of most cases of bipolar disorder, which is why this condition can be hard to spot. Sometimes, a teen might be depressed for months at a time, without experiencing manic symptoms. Bipolar disorder can also be coupled with other physical and mental health issues, which can further complicate diagnosis and treatment. It’s important to visit a professional for a comprehensive assessment and thorough diagnosis.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can be characterized as six different conditions: bipolar I, bipolar II, rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, cyclothymia, other specified bipolar disorder, and unspecified bipolar disorder.

All forms of bipolar disorder involve several of three different “states”:

  • Mania: Mania symptoms are the defining characteristic of most bipolar cases and are what set them apart from other depressive disorders. A person with mania will be irrationally energetic and restless, and sometimes angry or irritable. They will always feel like they’ve got something left in the tank. Mania can look like joy or happiness from the outside, but it can also be quite frightening, even for the person experiencing it. In some cases, symptoms of mania are followed by feelings of grandiosity and invincibility.
  • Hypomania: Hypomania is a much milder form of mania, with many of the same feelings, but far more subdued. The difference between mania and hypomania may be context-sensitive, but manic symptoms are usually far more severe, and can even lead to injury and hospitalization.
  • Depression:Not all forms of bipolar disorder involve depressive episodes, but most do. Depression is the opposite of mania, characterized by low mood (for no reason) and anhedonia (inability to feel joy). A teen with depression might still laugh reflexively or performatively, but their “normal mood” will be overwhelmingly low, and they might not know why. Depression may also be followed by fatigue and low energy, as well as lower pain thresholds and unknown, random pains (especially headaches and stomach aches).

Bipolar I is characterized by one or more severe manic episodes. Depressive symptoms are common, but they are not necessary for a diagnosis of bipolar I.

Bipolar II is characterized by hypomania and depressive symptoms. For a teen to have bipolar II, they must never have experienced a severe manic or full-blown manic episode.

Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is characterized by frequent shifts between manic and depressive symptoms, with bipolar episodes occurring more than three times a year.

Cyclothymia is a rarer form of bipolar disorder that also involves rapid shifts, but with mild symptoms. A teen with cyclothymia has neither severe depressive nor severe manic symptoms.

In cases of other specified bipolar disorders, a teen’s symptoms do not exactly match any of the previous conditions, but they still involve symptoms of both mania and depression.

In cases of unspecified bipolar disorder, a teen’s symptoms may indicate a form of bipolar disorder, but the attending doctor does not have the necessary information to make a definite diagnosis.

In the past, cases of other specified and unspecified bipolar disorders were lumped together as “not otherwise specified bipolar disorder”, but more recent diagnostic manuals have split this definition.

Depending on the order, severity, and accompanying characteristics, your teen may be diagnosed with any one of five different forms of bipolar disorder, which informs how their treatment plan might be formulated, and how their symptoms might develop.

While this can be a lot to take in, what matters is that a comprehensive assessment is important to help identify your teen’s bipolar condition and other connected mental health problems and identify the best possible treatment plan for them. Remember – there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution in mental health. Treatment plans must be personalized, which is why our focus at the Arrow House is to help teens through modular and individualized programs.

Can Bipolar Disorder Be Treated?

Yes, bipolar disorder is very treatable. In fact, research shows that a variety of different treatment options have long-term positive effects in reducing bipolar symptoms, especially through a combination of both one-on-one therapy and targeted medication.

Unlike most mood disorders, bipolar disorder is primarily treated with mood stabilizers (such as lithium), rather than antidepressants. Other effective medication can include antiseizure medication and antipsychotic medication.

But medications are only one part of the initial treatment plan. At the Arrow House, we incorporate patient-specific pharmacology with intensive therapeutic sessions, experiential modalities, recreational activities, and more, based on every teen’s individual needs.

Some teens do better in a group setting, while some do better in solo therapy. Family therapy is often a part of the treatment process, involving parents and siblings in the long-term care of their loved one, and helping them better understand how bipolar disorder works.

A Long-Term Treatment Process

Treatment programs at the Arrow House involve a minimum duration of 30 days, for clients aged 13 to 17. Total program length will vary from teen to teen, depending on any given client’s needs.

But we see our programs as an internship in long-term mental health treatment, rather than an isolated package. Teens interned in our programs will develop a new toolkit for facing their symptoms and dealing with everyday problems, but they will require the continuous support of their loved ones to succeed in the long-term.

Getting started with us at the Arrow House will help you build an important foundation for long-term mental and physical health. Get it touch with us today to find out more.