If you’re living with bipolar disorder, you’ve likely experienced mood swings between mania — elevated mood — and depression — low mood. But bipolar disorder can come with other symptoms, including bipolar psychosis, periods when it’s difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not.
Experiencing bipolar psychosis can be scary, both for you and your loved ones. “One thing that scares me is not having control over these episodes,” shared one member of MyDepressionTeam.
Read on to learn more about bipolar psychosis, including what it feels like, and the steps you can take to manage it.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “psychosis” refers to when you can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is not. Psychosis can happen during the mood swings caused by bipolar disorder. Both depressive and manic episodes can cause psychosis. Bipolar psychosis is typically linked to bipolar 1 disorder. Around 63 percent of people with bipolar 1 disorder have experienced bipolar psychosis.
Symptoms of bipolar psychosis vary, but some common ones include:
The range of symptoms a person experiences during psychosis is often influenced by the person’s mood when they enter psychosis.
Scientists are still working to figure out the exact cause of bipolar psychosis. Bipolar psychosis may be related to differences in how your brain works, genetics, or triggers such as stress or substance abuse.
Several mental health conditions can cause psychosis. For this reason, your doctor will consider your mental health history and symptoms to diagnose you with bipolar psychosis. They may ask you questions such as:
The answers to these questions will help your doctor decide whether your psychosis is a symptom of bipolar disorder or another related disorder.
Psychosis is linked to a high risk of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and harm to others. For this reason, you need to act quickly if you think you or a loved one may be entering a psychotic episode.
The best way to manage psychosis is to recognize the early signs and get help.
Early signs of psychosis include:
If you think you or a loved one are experiencing psychotic symptoms, seek help right away. You can contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 or chatting online.
During an episode, try to reduce your fear and stay calm by challenging your thoughts. After the episode, follow up with your health care provider to prevent future episodes.
Although you cannot prevent bipolar psychosis, there are strategies you can use to improve your symptoms and decrease the risk of future episodes.
Like many mental health conditions, treatment options for bipolar psychosis include both medication and talk therapy. Antipsychotic medication is prescribed to help manage symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, while mood stabilizers can help prevent future episodes.
Talk therapy can also help manage symptoms and prevent relapse. This could include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychotherapy.
Managing bipolar psychosis can be difficult, but there are several lifestyle changes that can help improve your quality of life. These include:
Keeping a record of when you experience psychosis can help you manage your symptoms. Write down what you were doing, how you felt, and how you managed your symptoms during and after the episode. If you can't remember what happened, ask someone who was with you to help you record it.
Recording this information will help you:
Be sure to talk with your doctor or mental health professional if you have symptoms of bipolar disorder, including bipolar psychosis. They can help you find a treatment option that helps you cope.
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of bipolar psychosis, it is important to seek help right away. Contact a mental health professional or emergency services for immediate help.
Remember, with treatment and support, it is possible to manage bipolar psychosis and lead a fulfilling life.
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