Although 2.5% of the population suffers with often debilitating symptoms of bipolar II, until yesterday, it remained a relatively unknown condition. The surprising news that Catherine Zeta Jones, a Hollywood icon, is herself a member of that statistic, brought attention and is increasing awareness about this mental health issue. In an article released yesterday, psychologist Jennifer Hartstein described the differences between bipolar I and bipolar II. “We think of the highs and lows, the real mania. Bipolar II is characterized with more depressive episodes. That’s where it kind of fits. And there’s at least one episode of a hypomanic episode, which is not the very high out-of-control mania that we might come to expect. But much more elevated mood or rapid speech, or thoughts that are kind of all over the place.”
People experiencing hypomania may appear to be highly agitated, which often gets mistaken for anger or moodiness. Many people do not receive a diagnosis until later in life because their symptoms often get misdiagnosed as depression. David Miklowitz, professor of psychiatry and director of the UCLA Child and Adolescent Mood Disorders Program, explained in another article that treating bipolar II with anti-depressants may actually exacerbate the mania. The most common form of treatment for bipolar II is medication, including mood stabilizers and anticonvulsants, in combination with psychotherapy. Harstein believes those who follow this regimen have the best chance for recovery. “The two in combination seem to be the best and most effective way to treat it,” she said.
Psychiatrist Gail Saltz was optimistic about the effect this type of media coverage can have. In a related article, she said, “I think it’s tremendously brave of her to come forward and I’m delighted that she’s doing that. There are many people getting a new diagnosis, and we want them to know they have every hope, if they get treatment, of having wonderfully productive lives.”
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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