Why are so many children being diagnosed Bipolar?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Person with masks

Bipolar.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Early Onset Bipolar Disorder.

Bipolar diagnoses in children have increased 40 fold in the ten-year period from 2000 to 2010.

What is behind the increasing number of children and teens who are being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder?

We are learning more about the risk factors for early onset all the time. Still, as we learn about what may be causing this increase in the number of cases of early onset Bipolar Disorder, the picture of how to treat or prevent early life Bipolar Disorder is getting less clear.

If we could detect symptoms of Bipolar Disorder early, presumably we should be able to treat those symptoms and reduce the incidence of Bipolar Disorder or at least reduce the severity of the disorder.

Unfortunately, there is often a lag of ten years or more from the first symptoms until the child has a manic or hypomanic episode that qualifies them for a diagnosis of Bipolar.

I have written in past blog posts about how many of the things that cause people to think of someone as Bipolar are in fact not necessarily symptoms of the disorder. Being moody does not make you Bipolar.

What does help define the Bipolar condition is the ability to sleep only a few or no hours per night and still have plenty of energy. That along with excessive energy, being driven to do things and being impulsive are the hallmark features of Bipolar Disorder.

Here are some of the possible causes for the increasing number of Bipolar diagnoses in children.

1. Taking Stimulant ADHD meds or antidepressants can set off a manic or hypomanic episode.

One huge risk factor for developing a Manic or hypomanic episode, the key factor in a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis is having taken either a stimulant or antidepressant medication.

Having been treated with a stimulant ADHD med seems to correlate with developing mania. Not all children treated for ADHD develop Bipolar and not all people with a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis were first diagnosed with ADHD but the overlap is disturbing.

In one study of adolescents with Bipolar Disorder, 98% had been diagnosed with ADHD and treated with stimulant meds first.

This points to the need for psychiatric diagnosis to be reviewed by psychiatrists and in children by a child psychiatrist.

2. Abusing substances increases the risk of developing Bipolar disorder.

Over 40 % of children who receive the Bipolar Disorder diagnosis have been abusing substances. In their lifetime, 60% of all people with Bipolar Disorder will develop a substance use disorder.

This is not limited to just stimulant drugs. There is a high overlap between Bipolar Disorder and alcohol abuse as well as developing problems with excessive use of Marijuana.

3. Being the victim of physical or sexual abuse or neglect.

Abuse or neglect increases the risk of developing Bipolar disorder. This also accounts for the difficulty in many cases of distinguishing between Bipolar disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. It is possible for people to have both illnesses.

There is also an overlap between trauma induced problems, stress disorders like PTSD, dissociation and the like and Bipolar Disorder. We would like to think the boundaries between genetic disorders and those that are the result of life experiences were easy to find. In practice those lines are blurry.

4. Poor diet and lack of exercise are risk factors for Bipolar Disorder.

Poor diet, particularly diets deficient in some vitamins and minerals can increase the risk of getting a Bipolar diagnosis. Hard here to tell which came first. People with depression or mania, both symptoms of Bipolar Disorder neglect their diet. Poor diet increases the risk and around the circle goes.

Lack of adequate exercise has resulted in an explosion in weight-related problems. There is the thought that this lack of exercise and poor diet is also contributing to the increased prevalence of Bipolar Disorder.

5. Genetics is a Bipolar Disorder risk factor.

If you have one parent with Bipolar Disorder the risk you will develop Bipolar Disorder is 33%. Two parents with Bipolar Disorder and the risk goes up to 70%.  Add to that the difficulty that parents who have an emotional problem have in parenting and you can see how the interplay of genetics and environment increase the risk dramatically of your grow up with a Bipolar, substance abusing parent.

6.  A changing environment may make Bipolar Disorder more noticeable.

Some of the characteristics that we today call Bipolar Disorder would have had survival benefits in the past. Fast processing speed and jumping to conclusions might save your life in the woods but can get you into trouble in the classroom.

People with milder varieties of bipolar disorder enjoy the hypomania – for a while. Even full-on Mania can be fun until those impulsive decisions get you into trouble. Bipolar Disorders are often associated with overspending, excessive sexual activity, and substance abuse. All things that damage relationships and can cost you your job.

The increase in children receiving the diagnosis of Bipolar disorder will continue to result in more adults with those labels as these early life cases age. If your child is having problems consider family therapy to help everyone find simple solutions to these problems.

If you or someone you know has Bipolar Disorder or another emotional problem that might look like Bipolar Disorder consider getting help. Therapy can be effective in helping you to learn how to control your symptoms. Medication can also be useful in keeping your moods within bounds.

People can and do recover from the symptoms we call Bipolar Disorder.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

 

Where does the Bipolar spectrum begin and end?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Person with masks

Bipolar.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Thoughts on Bipolar spectrum.

My understanding of the Bipolar Disorders, like many other “mental illnesses” has changed over the time I have been involved with this field. Not all professionals agree on some of these things so it is only fair I tell you some of my biases first.

When I first learned the technical part of diagnosis we had to study the diagnostic manual (the DSM.) The assumption here is that a really good clinician can distinguish between those with a mental illness and those without and further that those with a mental illness are in some specific way different from the normal ones.

Neither of those assumptions is necessarily true.

In school, it was really important to learn to distinguish the niceties of the diagnosis. I spent a lot of time on things like the differences between Schizophreniform disorder, Schizophrenia, and Schizoaffective disorder. This is very important in school and in taking your exams for licensure. In the real world, it is not so important. Both the meds and the talk therapy are likely to be the same for all of these.

Some of our view of the “Bipolar disorder spectrum” is distorted by the need to rule people in or out and to state which things are normal and which are diagnosable. The ruler you use can alter the results. Our venerable rule books on diagnosis in the mental health field fluctuate between the categorical approach, putting people into pre-sized boxes, and the continuum approach where we line them up from well to sick. Here are my beliefs on this.

1. There are NOT two groups, the “normal” and the “mentally ill.”

With some medical disorders, you either have it or don’t. Mental illness is not like that.

We are coming to recognize that there are not two distinct groups, the well and the unwell, but in fact, there is a continuum between being well and unwell. Something bad happens to you, then you should be sad or anxious. All of us have some days we feel better and other days that we feel less well.

Most of the things we count as symptoms are in fact normal human behaviors. It is just that the unwell person has more symptoms or more severe symptoms than the less unwell person. When the symptoms add up to enough to make a diagnosis is largely a judgment call.

People do not move directly from a healthy weight directly to obese. The move comes on slowly one ounce at a time. The same thing happens with mood disorders. It is not just the number of symptoms but also the severity of symptoms that cause a professional to assign a diagnosis. Two different professionals and you may get two different diagnoses even in research studies using “strict diagnostic criteria.”

2. Counting symptoms is not an exact science.

Each mental health disorder has a list of symptoms that are believed to make up the disorder. The client needs to have some number of symptoms to get the disorder. Say a disorder requires the majority of the list of symptoms, 7 of 13 possible symptoms, look at all the ways we could add this up. The mathematicians among us will recognize this as a factorial problem, the number of outcomes of 13 things taken 7 at a time. Email me if you do the math and get a number. Take my word for it the number of combinations is huge.

So as the clinician talks to you he considers, do you have enough characteristics of a symptom to count that one? Then he adds them all up and if you get enough you win the diagnosis.

Lots of judgment calls in this process.

So what about the spectrum of Bipolar disorders?

I think this is a long spectrum and a lot of it does not deserve a diagnosis. The most severe cases can and should be diagnosed because if you have that many symptoms you need help.

Are birds Bipolar? Are other animals? I think they are a little. Every spring the days get longer, there is more daylight and they are awake more. They become interested in the opposite sex. Here in the northern hemisphere birds start looking for mates by Valentine’s day in February and by Easter, they have bred, created nests and are hatching out chicks. People do this same thing.

We humans, tend to fall in love in the spring and marry in the summer. It takes a little longer for the children, but not that much longer.

There is also a seasonal decline in activities for all animals in the winter. Bears eat all they can and then go sleep for the winter. In humans, we call this atypical depression. So some change from active, even hypomanic behavior occurs naturally with the seasons. These mood changes are normal human behavior.

We probably should not give every teenager a Bipolar diagnosis, though most of the time their parents are sure that their preoccupation with sex and their moodiness should qualify.

People who have diagnosable Bipolar disorder do not really have different symptoms. What they have is a difference in the severity of symptoms. They also have different outcomes.

With all spectrum disorders, we should not make our decision based on the presence or absence of symptoms, which alone is not enough. The key factor is what effect do those symptoms have on the person.

If the increased interest in sex during the manic or hypomanic phase damages their relationships, gets them fired for sexual harassment of causes other disruptions in their work and relationships then they get the diagnosis. Also if the symptoms of the mood swings become unmanageable and they upset the person with those symptoms, then they should be treated.

So yes there is a spectrum of Bipolar-like symptoms from almost unnoticeable to debilitating severe. The thing we professionals should be looking at is not our judgment of the severity of the symptoms, but how are these symptoms, these problems in living life, affecting the client.

If the problems interfere with having a happy life then it has become severe enough we need to give it a diagnostic label and begin treatment.

Personally, I think there are a lot of people with less severe mood swings than what would be diagnosed as a Bipolar spectrum disorder that would benefit from some counseling. But as long as they can maintain the choice is up to the client.

Thanks to reader Dr. Charan Singh Jilowa for suggesting this topic. For more on this topic check the list of posts to the right or the post list on Bipolar disorder and mania.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Bipolar, Mania, Cyclothymic and Hyperthymic Posts

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Person with masks

Bipolar.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Bipolar, Mania, Cyclothymic and Hyperthymic Posts.

Here is the most recent updated list of posts and links on Bipolar Disorders and related conditions.

1. What is Mania?

2. Do medications or drugs cause mania or Bipolar disorder?

 3. What is Mania or a Manic Episode?

4. You Know You’re Manic When

5. Lady Diana, Bipolar, and Borderline Personality Disorder

6. Is everyone Bipolar?

7. Does an adjustment disorder produce depression & mania?

8. Tests for mental illness

9. Hyperthymia, Hyperthymic Personality Disorder and  Bipolar Disorder

10. Bipolar Disorder, Alcoholism, and Addiction 

11. Scared or Excited?

12. More depression these days?

13. Bipolar or Major Depression?

14. Bipolar – misdiagnosed or missing diagnosis?

15. Am I Bipolar?

16. Bipolar doesn’t mean moody

17. What is Cyclothymia?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Types of Mania and Dual Mania

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Person with masks

Bipolar.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How many types of mania are there?

Just what mental health symptoms are illnesses and how many mental illnesses are there? Counting Manias is especially difficult.

We think we know mania when we see it, but it is such a diverse group of symptoms that it has become established as “manic episodes” that are building blocks of diagnosis, rather than separate diagnoses. It functions primarily to separate Bipolar Disorder, formerly called manic-depressive disorder from the other depressive conditions.

Mania has been described as the most heterogeneous mental health symptom there is, raising the question “When we say mania are we all talking about the same thing?” Are there types of mania that have different causes and indicate varying diseases?

Currently, there are over 400 recognized disorders or conditions that might be the focus of treatment in the DSM-4. As you may have seen from previous posts many of these disorders have lots of subtypes that look differently in practice and may require different treatments.

Mania and Bipolar disorders are especially difficult because of their wide diversity of symptoms. For more on the DSM-4 and some to be DSM-5 descriptions see: What is mania? And What is hypomania?

Encarta Dictionary definitions of mania include:
1. An excessive and intense interest or enthusiasm for something and 2. A psychiatric disorder characterized by excessive physical activity, rapidly changing ideas and impulsive behavior. The two uses of the word mania don’t have a lot in common.

Kraepelin, whose work has formed much of the foundation for modern efforts to divide up and diagnose illnesses, reported there were 6 types of mania. His distinctions seem to have been blended together into the one thing we now call Mania. But are all manias really the same?

Research has been less than helpful here as most researchers exclude a lot of people from their studies. If you exclude enough people, for enough reasons, the group left may look all alike. That does not mean the resulting study tells us anything about the various problems people with mania are undergoing.

One study (Haro et al., 2006) tells us that they found three very different forms of mania. The most common form of mania they called “typical mania” and this group contained 60% of the people in the study. But the other 40% had symptoms that were so different that the authors separated them into two additional subtypes of mania.

Psychotic mania is not like “Typical mania.”

Psychotic symptoms sometimes end up in making mania for a bipolar diagnosis but psychotic episodes can occur in other illnesses such as schizophrenia. It is common for families to have members who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorders and others who were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Psychotic mania looks a lot like psychosis and bipolar at the same time, but then we have another illness schizoaffective disorder to use for that also. This leaves the diagnosis of psychotic Bipolar in doubt. I have seen doctors record a diagnosis of schizophrenia – bipolar type.

Dual Mania is similar to other dual diagnoses

Dual Mania was described by Haro et al. as significantly different from other types of mania. Dual-diagnosis mania has been poorly recognized simply because most people who abuse substances are routinely excluded from research studies. Haro et al. report that this systematic exclusion of people with multiple problems leaves a huge gap in our understanding of mania and therefore Bipolar Disorder.

Dual Diagnosis client with mania spent significantly more days in the psychiatric hospital and had more suicide attempts. This is consistent with other studies that have shown people with Bipolar Two are at the highest risk for a suicide attempt and that people who abuse substances have higher risks also. Unfortunately acutely suicidal clients are also routinely excluded from studies of mania and Bipolar Disorders despite there being overrepresented in substance abuse treatment and acute psychiatric facilities.

Other characteristics of clients with “dual mania” included being male and younger than others with a manic episode. Dual mania resulted in higher disability levels. Dual mania was also more likely to cause job and relational problems.

Of those clients in the Haro et al study, 25% had a history of alcohol abuse. Of those with dual mania, 40% had a history of marijuana use or abuse. So that means many dual mania clients had abused both.

In substance abuse treatment the pattern of alcohol and marijuana use coupled with job, relational and legal problems is so common as to be almost universal. Among those in treatment for methamphetamine abuse, manic and hypomanic symptoms are commonly reported even when the client is not using drugs. Episodes of manic or hypomanic symptoms are also commonly reported as triggers for substance abuse relapse.

Of those with long-term mania and multiple hospitalizations the “aggressive type, ” all had histories of substance abuse (Soto, 2003.) This study did not specifically include a substance abuse type of mania but noted that among those with long-term mania and a history of substance abuse those who had not used in the last 30 days were no different than those who had used or drank. The suggestion to me is that there is something different about those who experience mania and abuse substances. Mania predisposes people to abuse substances and both conditions need to be treated.

My conclusion

The continued exclusion of substance abusers and those who are suicidal results in research data that excludes those at highest risk and those who most use mental health services.

Comments on Mania, Bipolar co-occurring disorder, and recovery and most anything mental health related are always welcomed.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

How is Hypomania different from Mania or a Manic Episode?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Person with masks

Bipolar.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Hypomanic Episodes.

In a post on Manic Episodes we talked about how episodes, according to the DSM are not diagnoses, they are “building blocks” out of which diagnosis are created. Someone could have either a manic episode or a hypomanic episode. The primary significance is the decision on labeling the condition as Bipolar one or Bipolar two. No Manic or Hypomanic Episode and you will not get the Bipolar label.

The Bipolar Disorder spectrum currently is very confused and confusing. It includes Bipolar I, Bipolar II, proposals for Bipolar III, IV and so on, as well as hypomania, mania, Cyclothymic Disorder, Hyperthymia, Hyperthymic personality disorder and so on. This spectrum is a very divergent group. Disorders involving an elevated mood may be the most Heterogeneous group there is (Van O’s et al. 2007.)

Lumping all these variety’s together may be overlooking the possibility that there are “Types of Bipolar Disorders.”

Hypomania requires a specific time period in which someone has had the symptoms of “elevated, expansive or irritable mood.” The difference is that for full mania the period needs to last for a full week, hypomania need only last for four days.

This creates some problems. What if you have manic-like symptoms for only three days? Do you get left out of the Bipolar spectrum? If someone has serious mania but it only lasts 6 days do they get Bipolar II not Bipolar I?

The effort to separate out conditions by the length of symptom duration may help psychiatrists decide what medication to prescribe but it does not make much difference to the client who has short but intense episodes of manic-like symptoms.

Since some of the changes in Hypomania may be subtle we take the word of others who know you or live with you to make this decision.

Most of the symptoms used to define hypomania are the same as those used to define a manic episode. The primary difference is the duration, four days to six is hypomania and a week or more is mania.

The exception here is that since hypomania is supposed to be a milder or different from mania.

If you have ever had hallucinations or delusions (not caused by drugs) then we skip the hypomania label and go directly to mania.

Here are the hypomania symptoms, then the exclusions. This narrative parallels the DSM but is my less technical, more colorful explanation.

The symptoms list is a lot like the list for Mania. I have italicized some of the differences.

A. For at least 4 days the person has an episode of “elevated, expansive or irritable mood.” Elevated does not mean happy. There are lots of descriptions of these elevated moods and they vary from person to person but the key factor is that these episodes are not like other people and that there are times when this person is not like this. If this episode is really bad we may waive the 4-day rule.

B. Pick 3 or four symptoms from a list of seven.

Each of these symptoms can vary in intensity and it is a judgment call. The result is that diagnosis can vary from clinician to clinician and even from time to time for the same person and the same clinician.

Here are the 7 symptoms needed to make a manic episode.

1. Grandiosity and excessive self-esteem. They can make no mistakes and can’t understand why people question them.

2. Sleep changes. You don’t need to sleep. Someone with Bipolar I can stay up for days and is full of energy. They may only sleep three or four hours a night. And in the morning they are not tired.

This reduced need for sleep may be a little less than in mania but the result is the same. People who are going manic or hypomanic get accused of drug use but if tested they have no drugs in the system or at least no drugs that explain the excess energy.

This is a troubling part of the diagnosis. Research studies (Carver & Johnson 2008) say that a lack of sleep can “induce” mania. So the lack of sleep is both a cause and a symptom of Mania? This sleep mania question needs more research. If the definitive study of this connection has been done so far I have not found it.

Not sleeping and not feeling tired does not mean that the person is rested. The longer this below normal sleep episode goes on the more irritable and delusional the person is likely to get. They may even begin to hallucinate. Only they don’t know they are delusional. They are convinced they are right and other people are dumb to not see how smart they are. If the hallucinations or delusions are noticeable to others we call it mania, not hypomania.

3. They talk a lot.

In hypomania, you may be able to interrupt them but not for long. They have a lot to say. Sometimes they talk too loudly and too emphatically. This is not the same as the way we old people talk when wound up, but that might give you a picture.

4. They feel their thoughts are “racing.”

Too many things to think about. In kids, this looks a lot like ADHD.

5. Lack of focus and easily distracted.

They are in such a hurry they move from topic to topic, project to project and can’t figure out what to do next. Lots of things left half-finished and on to the next one.

6. Increased goal-directed activity.

In mania it is excessive, in hypomania, those around them notice an increase but can’t explain why.

This can be trying to do too much at work, socially, sexually or in most any area of life. This over goal-directed activity can lead to excessive physical motion like a person whose engine is always running.

7. Overdoing pleasurable activities.

Hard to believe that someone could have too much fun but what we are looking for here is not that they have a lot of fun but that they continue to do pleasurable things despite negative consequences. This could also be affected by the assessor’s values judgments.

Examples of excesses are overspending, reckless or dangerous activities, “sexual indiscretions” and so forth. This needs to be more than someone who just likes to do something, like collect something. There is an episodic nature to these activities and most everyone will agree that this person has binges of overdoing things despite them getting in trouble.

This characteristic is highly related to the continued use despite negative consequences we see in substance abuse. As a matter of fact, people with a Bipolar diagnosis are much more likely to also have addiction and alcoholism issues than the general population.

The result?

To be diagnosed with a hypomanic episode you need to have three of the seven symptoms. We want four if you are just irritable but not expansive or elevated in mood. But with hypomania, the symptoms can be milder, more of a judgment call and can be briefer in time duration.

If you or someone you know has symptoms of hypomania please see a professional. This article is not meant to be enough for you to do “do it yourself diagnosis.” There are many effective treatments for Mania, Bipolar Disorder, and related conditions.

BIG QUESTION: What about people who have these symptoms for less than four days? Or those that move in and out of Hypomania very quickly? Are we missing some other type of Bipolar Disorder? Or is that moodiness something else?

Stay tuned for more on Mania, Hypomania, Cyclothymia and Bipolar Disorder and Types of Bipolar Disorder and the things we know and don’t know about all these topics.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Do medications or drugs cause mania or Bipolar disorder?

By David Joel Miller MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Drugs.

Drugs.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

A connection between taking medication, abusing drugs and Bipolar Mania?

The question of connections between “drugs” and various mental illnesses is a huge concern.  We have known for a long time that there is a connection between some chemicals and Mania. The connection to Bipolar Disorders, formerly called Manic Depressive Disorder, is more problematic.

People seem to think that because a medication is prescribed by a doctor or can be purchased over the counter, it is safe. The huge increase in abuse of prescription medication has made us question that. Now there is evidence that not just street drugs but prescription medications may be setting off episodes of mania.

We all pretty much intuitively know what depression looks like. But Bipolar Disorder that is something else. The official definition of Bipolar disorder requires a lot more than just moodiness.

To get the diagnosis of bipolar you need to have had an episode of mania or hypomania. But the DSM excludes from diagnoses symptoms caused by drugs of abuse. For Bipolar Disorder this includes Bipolar symptoms that were caused by prescribed medications.

Do prescribed medications cause Mania or Hypomania? They sure do.

The creation of Manic symptoms by the taking of medications is so common that some researchers have proposed a separate “type” of Bipolar Disorder, Bipolar III, for those times when taking a medication causes manic symptoms (Akiskal 1999, 2003, Williams 2006.)

Here is the Bipolar medication dilemma.

Most people who get diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder have had one or more episodes of depression first. Then they have an episode of mania or hypomania and the diagnosis gets changed. Taking antidepressants is well known to result in propelling some people into a manic episode. This happens to about 10% of all people prescribed some antidepressants. Also if someone has EVER had an episode of mania or hypomania that risk of sudden switching increases to 20% (Breggin 2010.)

That drug or medication-induced mania is specifically excluded from the diagnosis under the DSM-4.

In practice, it has come to be common that a person who has a sudden extreme reaction to an antidepressant is a likely candidate for a Bipolar Diagnosis despite the DSM-4 exclusion.

If it was only antidepressants that created mania things would be simple. Lots of other drugs and medications can result in manic or near manic episodes.

There is a huge difference between someone being “maniacy” when under the influence or while withdrawing and those people who take a medication one time and are propelled into recurring bouts of mania or hypomania.

We see manic-like symptoms in people who use and abuse stimulants. Even excess of caffeine can create those sort of symptoms. But medications that we do not think of as stimulants can cause manic and hypomanic episodes.

Antibiotics have been shown to induce manic episodes. So have anti-anxiety meds and some over the counter medications. Other medications like steroids, both prescribed and abused have been suspected of creating this effect also. That connection remains uncertain.

So the question becomes, “Do prescribe medications create a manic episode?” It looks like the answer to that is yes, sometimes they do. Does that mean this is just an allergic reaction or side effect of that medication? This is iffier as some people have that response and others don’t.

Is it possible that people who have an undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder are likely to be propelled into a manic or hypomanic episode when they are exposed to a medication to which they are sensitive?  I am inclined to think so.

We also see a huge overlap between substance abuse disorders, especially alcohol abuse, and Bipolar Disorders. Does alcohol abuse cause a Bipolar condition? Are people with undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder more likely to abuse alcohol?

Does this medication-induced mania matter? Williams says it does and reports that the rate of suicide attempts by people who switch to mania as a result of taking an antidepressant is even higher than for those with Bipolar II.

But there is more

People with anxiety are sometimes treated with an antidepressant. They also can experience an episode of mania or hypomania.

All this points out to me that with all we know about Bipolar Disorder there is still a lot more we don’t know and a lot more research is needed in this area.

It also suggests that there may be multiple types of Bipolar or even several different disorders currently being lumped together under one name.

For more on Bipolar disorders see:

Hyperthymia and Bipolar Disorder

Do drugs cause mental illness?

Bipolar – Misdiagnosed or missing diagnosis?

Bipolar or Major Depression?

Bipolar doesn’t mean moody    

Or the category list to the right.

Anyone have the experience of taking or doing something and then having an episode of Mania which resulted in the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder that you would care to share?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. Do drugs cause mania?

What is Mania or a Manic Episode?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Person with masks

Bipolar.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Manic Episodes.

Episodes, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) are not diagnoses, they are “building blocks” out of which diagnosis are created.

Mania and its milder cousin Hypomania are linked, closer than most marriages, to the Bipolar diagnoses. To get the Bipolar tag you must have had either a manic or a hypomanic episode and there is only a hand full of other things that might create a Manic or manic-like episode that is not Bipolar.

Some of these symptoms are a matter of judgment and intensity. There has been lots of research on the area of Mania and Bipolar disorders but the more we learn the more questions we have.

Currently, there are no laboratory tests, not even brain scans that are clearly diagnostic of mania. There are some differences in some tests but nothing that so far is clearly convincing enough to make the diagnosis.

The DSM-4-TR tells us that there may be differences in the functioning of some neurotransmitters. Then it lists five different transmitters that may vary. There are lots of ways any one transmitter may vary and any one person could have variations in from one to five transmitters. That whole approach so far is not very helpful to the clinicians or the people who have mania.

So in practice, we look for a whole list of symptoms, add them up with exclusions, inclusions, and severity, look for other explanations and when all else is ruled out what is left we call a manic episode.

If you have EVER had a Manic Episode for which we cannot find a medical cause you get the diagnosis of Bipolar I. First the symptoms, then the exclusions. This narrative parallels the DSM but is my less technical, more colorful explanation.

A. For over a week the person has an episode of “elevated, expansive or irritable mood.” Elevated does not mean happy. There are lots of descriptions of these elevated moods and they vary from person to person but the key factor is that these episodes are not like other people and that there are times when this person is not like this. If you get yourself locked up, usually this is in a psychiatric hospital; we wave the full week requirement.

B. Pick 3 or four symptoms from a list of seven.

Each of these symptoms can vary in intensity and it is a judgment call. The result is that diagnosis can vary from clinician to clinician and ever from time to time for the same person and the same clinician. For example, studies show that young children in the U.S. get diagnosed with Bipolar a lot. Show the same file to a psychiatrist in the U.K and the child is more likely to get OCD or ADHD (Dubicka et al. 2008.)

Here are the 7 symptoms needed to make a manic episode.

1. Big-shotism, to use a 12 step term. a sudden burst of confidence or thinking you are better, more intelligent or smarter than others. Plans to cure cancer, run for president and write a novel all in the same week. This can be fun for the person with Bipolar until others start disagreeing with you.

2. Sleep changes. You don’t need to sleep. Someone with Bipolar I can stay up for days and is full of energy. They may only sleep two, three or four hours a night. And in the morning they are not tired.

This looks a lot like a Meth user only they don’t need drugs to stay up and they get to sleep just a little each night.

The DSM says this is the big one of all the symptoms. To quote the DSM – “Almost invariably, there is a decreased need for sleep.”

This is a troubling part of the diagnosis. Research studies (Carver & Johnson 2008) say that a lack of sleep can “induce” mania. So a lack of sleep is both a cause and a symptom of Mania? This sleep mania question needs more research. If the definitive study of this connection has been done so far I have not found it.

Not sleeping and not feeling tired does not mean that the person is rested. The longer this below normal sleep episode goes on the more irritable and delusional the person is likely to get. They may even begin to hallucinate. Only they don’t know they are delusional. They are convinced they are right and other people are dumb to not see how smart they are.

3. They talk a lot.

Not used car salesman or late night infomercial type rapid talk. Professionals call this “pressured Speech.” The person has so much going on in their head they can’t talk fast enough to say it all. The can jump from subject to subject, include extra unrelated stuff and just generally talk so only they know what they are talking about. Sometimes even they can’t figure out what they were trying to say.

4. They feel their thoughts are “racing” or they keep jumping subjects like that old-school record with a scratch.

This also gets mentioned by clients diagnosed with anxiety based disorders. Are Bipolar and Anxiety related? We know that depression and anxiety co-occur commonly, why not Bipolar and anxiety?

5. Lack of focus and easily distracted.

They are in such a hurry they move from topic to topic, project to project and can’t figure out what to do next. Lots of things left half-finished and on to the next one.

This sort of lack of focus reminds me of sitting with a channel surfer who keeps changing the T.V. channel in mid-sentence. This is more a matter of being over-interested in too many things than of losing interest in any one thing.

This characteristic looks a lot like a symptom of ADHD and so given the same person and the same symptoms one clinician may see this as Bipolar and another will see ADHD.

6. Excessive goal-directed activity.

This can be trying to do too much at work, socially, sexually or in most any area of life. This over goal-directed activity can lead to excessive physical motion like a person whose engine is always running. This characteristic called “psychomotor agitation” also looks like the “hyperactivity” in ADHD further leading to the question are those two conditions related or do they just get confused?

7. Overdoing pleasurable activities

Hard to believe that someone could have too much fun but what we are looking for here is not that they have a lot of fun but that they continue to do pleasurable things despite negative consequences. This could also be affected by the assessor’s values judgments.

Examples of excesses are overspending, reckless or dangerous activities, “sexual indiscretions” and so forth. This needs to be more than someone who just likes to do something, like collect something. There is an episodic nature to these activities and most everyone will agree that this person has binges of overdoing things despite them getting in trouble.

This characteristic is highly related to the continued use despite negative consequences we see in substance abuse. As a matter of fact, people with a Bipolar diagnosis are much more likely to also have addiction and alcoholism issues than the general population.

The result

To be diagnosed with a manic episode you need to have three of the seven symptoms. We want four if you are just irritable but not expansive or elevated in mood.

But look at how many of these things are judgment calls. Was Steve Jobs grandiose? How about Bill Gates? How much can I work or write before it becomes “excessive goal-directed behavior.” Are all writers Bipolar? (I need to think about that one.)  How many books can I buy this week before it becomes excessive involvement with pleasurable activities?

Sorry, this post is running long. My short explanation of manic episodes leaves more questions unanswered than it answered. Like: How could you be manic and not have Bipolar disorder?  What is hypomania and how is it related to all this? Are their different types of mania? What is a mixed episode? What things cause mania? How will this all change when we get the DSM-5?

If you or someone you know has symptoms of mania please see a professional. This article is not meant to be enough for you to do “do it yourself diagnosis.” There are many effective treatments for Mania, Bipolar Disorder, and related conditions.

Stay tuned for more on Mania, Hypomania, Cyclothymia and Bipolar Disorder and the things we know and don’t know about all these topics.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.