Understanding College Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). These mood swings can affect sleep, energy levels, behavior, judgment, and the ability to think clearly. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that requires lifelong management. Understanding this condition is crucial not only for those who may be living with it but also for friends, family, and educators. Characterized by extreme mood swings, it can significantly impact a person’s daily life, relationships, and overall well-being, especially when attending school.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in College:

Manic Episode Symptoms:

  • Feeling overly elated or high
  • Increased energy and activity levels
  • Racing thoughts and rapid speech
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Impulsive behavior and poor decision-making

Depressive Episode Symptoms:

  • Persistent sadness or anxiety
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Types of College Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar I Disorder: Individuals with Bipolar I experience manic episodes that last at least seven days or are severe enough to require immediate hospital care. Depressive episodes typically occur as well, lasting at least two weeks.
  • Bipolar II Disorder: Bipolar II involves a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, which are less severe than full-blown manic episodes. Despite being less intense, hypomania can still impair functioning and lead to risky behavior.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder: Cyclothymic disorder is characterized by numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms that last for at least two years (one year in children and adolescents).

Possible Causes of Bipolar Disorder

While the exact cause of bipolar disorder is not fully understood, several factors may contribute to its development, including:

  • Genetics: Bipolar disorder tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition.
  • Brain Structure and Function: Differences in the structure and functioning of certain brain areas involved in emotion regulation may play a role.
  • Neurotransmitter Imbalance: Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which regulate mood, may contribute to bipolar disorder.

Managing Bipolar Disorder in College

  1. Seeking Professional Help: If you suspect you may have bipolar disorder or are experiencing symptoms, it’s essential to seek help from a mental health professional in college. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and create a treatment plan tailored to your needs.
  2. Medication: Medication, such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, or antipsychotics, may be prescribed to manage symptoms. It’s crucial to take medication as prescribed and communicate any concerns or side effects with your healthcare provider while at school.
  3. Therapy: There are multiple approaches that our licensed counselors can help individuals learn coping strategies, identify triggers, and manage symptoms effectively.
  4. Lifestyle Changes: Healthy lifestyle habits, including regular exercise, adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and stress management techniques, can play a significant role in managing bipolar disorder.

Building a Support System: Surrounding yourself with supportive friends, family, and peers can provide invaluable emotional support. Additionally, joining a support group or seeking out campus resources can connect you with others who understand what you’re going through.

At the Virtual Care Group, we advocate for a gradual healing process. Take the first step towards change by joining us for a no-obligation demo today to discover how our licensed counselors available 24/7/365 can kickstart the transformation that your students, faculty, and staff are looking for.