Bipolar disorder is commonly misunderstood as a mood disorder, as this chronic mental illness causes a patient to experience “highs” and “lows” in their mood. However, bipolar disorder affects much more – a patient’s energy, thought process, and behavior are also impacted by it. While the average age of onset is 25, the illness can develop at any age in both men and women.
Bipolar disorder can be particularly enigmatic as a diagnosis. Dr. Samoon Ahmad compares the bipolar spectrum to a chameleon. Like a reptile with the capacity to change its skin color, the rapidly shifting symptoms of bipolar patients often cause the disorder to blend in with other illnesses.
Scientists believe that genetics, stress, and an individual’s brain structure can all contribute to its development. Thus, detailed history, genetic and neurocognitive testing as well as collateral information from family and friends are all important factors in formulating a correct diagnosis.
Depression is frequently the first symptom of bipolar disorder. A bipolar patient experiencing a depressive episode will feel symptoms commonly associated with depression, such as hopelessness and a lack of energy. A patient in a manic state, on the other hand, may experience feelings of euphoria, excessive goal-driven activity, limitless energy and an inability to sleep. Shifts in mood can take place within a few hours or within a period of days. It is also possible for individuals to experience mixed states with both manic and depressive features.
Patients should talk to a professional if they are experiencing any of these signs of trouble:
- Hopelessness and helplessness
- Chronic inability to function in daily life
- Suicidal thoughts
- Inability to concentrate due to an elevated or depressed mood
- Complete loss of energy or a dramatic increase in energy
- Major shifts in mindset and mood
- Impaired judgement and reckless behavior
- Hallucinations or delusions during manic episodes in severe cases
While the extremes of bipolar disorder are obvious, misdiagnosis is frequent because bipolar disorder can present as a wide range of symptoms and behavior. There are many subtleties of moods that need to be evaluated for a proper diagnosis. There is a spectrum of symptoms and behaviors that vary widely from one mood to the other, in any combination.
The Integrative Center for Wellness offers patients one-on-one consultations, evaluations, diagnosis, treatment, and management of bipolar disorder. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment, so Dr. Ahmad is committed to working with our patients to help develop a personalized treatment plan which will vary depending on the type of bipolar disorder a patient experiences, as well as based on their medical history, family history, etc…
Our treatments are often a mix of medication (which can include mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications, and/or antidepressants), psychotherapy, and nutritional therapy. Medication will depend on the phase of the disorder, co-existing symptoms, and personal and family history. Dietary support is also often necessary due to its correlation to metabolic syndrome. Psychopharmacological treatments are only initiated after full discussion of risk and benefits and Dr. Ahmad welcomes an open discussion and engagement in this process.
We work with our patients to help them develop a personalized stress relief measure, as well as recognize triggers in their lifestyle and routine that can be addressed, ensuring that the risk of an episode is reduced through self-managed behavioral adjustments. Dr. Ahmad’s clinical and educational expertise provide a strong foundation for treatment, but he also encourages patient education, family integration and social support networks.