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Normal ups and downs or is it bipolar disorder?, seek help in Northern Virginia

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Remember the song titled, "I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden"? Our lives can be very stressful. Both military personnel and civilians experience stress from human relationships at home, work or school. Demanding relationships can cause us to feel good one day and feel down the next day. These mood swings are normal for some of us but for others they need to be studied. Medical professionals explore mood swings to determine if they are an indication of bipolar disorder.

Diagnosing of bipolar disorder includes exploring mood swings and getting a complete medical history. The diagnosis includes performing lab and medical tests to rule out other possible causes. Mark Howard, a therapist and director of operations for Snowden Mental Health Clinic at Fredericksburg, explained the impact bipolar disorder can have on a person's life. "A person with bipolar disorder faces swings in mood, energy level, and behavior that can last briefly or for months. It also varies among individuals, one may have far more depressive periods while another experiences the opposite," he explained.

Symptoms of the depressive period include irritability and anxiety, guilty feelings, lack of energy or interest in anything, persistent sadness, changes in sleep and eating habits, and frequent thoughts of death and suicide. The manic phase a person with bipolar disorder experiences includes abnormally high self-confidence, much greater level of activity than normal, unrestrained optimism, reduced need for sleep, aggressive behavior, possible delusions and reckless behavior.

Mental health practitioners have a multitude of options at their disposal to assist bipolar disorder patients. Some of them are prescription mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications to alleviate symptoms. Another method, "talk" therapy, may also prove to be beneficial. Howard said, "sticking with your prescribed care plan is essential to feel better and enjoy a better quality of life."

Immediate care is provided at Snowden. You don't have to wait weeks to be treated. Snowden also offers a separate substance abuse program. Call 540-741-3900 locally or 800-362-5005 toll-free to request an evaluation.

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