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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Bipolar Disorder Fundamentals

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jun 29th 2010

abcIn considering bipolar disorder, it's important to understand a few fundamental things to pay attention to, symptoms, triggers, and the wisdom of a tracking sheet.

Let's take a look at the ABC's of this right now:

A. Symptom Education - The first thing we want to do is be aware of your symptoms. There are 3 types of symptoms that pertain to
Bipolar Disorder depending on whether the mood is depressed, manic or mixed.

  • With depressed symptoms, you may notice a lack of interest on pleasure in things, a restlessness, sleep issues, fatigue, change in appetite, and even thoughts of suicide.

  • With manic symptoms you may notice more extreme irritability or perhaps feeling excessively high or euphoric. Your mind may be racing far more than usual or you might notice needing less sleep to function. In this mood it's possible to engage in irresponsible behaviors of spending sprees, risky sexual behavior, or an increase in any drug or alcohol use. Most of all, there is often thoughts of denying that anything is wrong (partly because it often, but not always, feels good). 

  • With mixed symptoms there is more agitation, inability to sleep, pressured crying, and even psychosis.

B. Trigger Education - You also want to make sure you understand the triggers to these symptoms.

  • If you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder than there are a number of potential triggers that would be good to be aware of so you can manage better. You'll want to be aware of getting good sleep, engaging in stress reduction practices, notice if the change of seasons effect you, be aware that it's easy to skip medication during manic times, and that a regular exercise practice is wonderful for creating balance.

C. Tracking - It is often a great idea to create a list of these symptoms and mark off when you experience them over the course of a couple weeks. There are really very few mental health professionals who are adept at diagnosing bipolar disorder and so having this checklist will greatly aid in you getting a more accurate diagnosis.

If any of this is sounding familiar with you and there is distress in your life, I'd recommend starting the tracking sheet and making an appointment with a mental health professional. At the end of the day, you always have choices and we are active participants in our health and well-being.

For a good and basic read on bipolar disorder, you may want to check out Bipolar 101: A Practical Guide to Identifying Triggers, Managing Medications, Coping with Symptoms, and more by Ruth White and John Preston.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

I need advice and help ... - Andrea - Jul 3rd 2010

I read all of this and thank you helps, but I know and know ...

you see i used to keep a journal of whenever I went from all happy to dpress (can't spell today--sucks!) -- yet now I kinda still do... the thing is I'm only 15 turning 16 on july 6th.. yay... not.. and I don't have medical attention .. and I know i have it based on listening and learning of what biploar is and how people always think I have it.

I need help... I don't know.. Do those pills really help?

... sorry guess I'm commenting .. about my problems and not the info given.. I just don't know where to turn to .. for help

Bipolar meds. - Cindy - Jun 30th 2010

After 26 years of being medicated for mental illness, what would happen if I decided to stop all my meds.?

There are meds. soon, I will not be able to afford.

I am recieving help from drug companys now, If after the year limit for assistence, I would have to take other less likeable meds. with horrible side effects, such as weight gain.

I know that when I tried this before, I had lost weight and looked the way I liked, a healthy weight. I also might not have diabetes. There was a year of no symptoms before I relapsed with mental illness.

Would there be a doctor willing to help me gradually reduce and stop my meds.?

I believe i'm on the right track, learning stress reduction, and self esteem issues.




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