Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Generally, people with severe bipolar disorder symptoms will not seek medical care on their own. A family member or close friend is usually the one seeking help for the person. The person needs to be seen by a medical professional in these situations:
When changes in personality, including extreme moodiness and episodes of rage, start to affect a person's life, ruin relationships with others, or threaten basic health, the person should be seen by a medical professional. Medical conditions such as diabetes and thyroid disorders can cause mood swings. These are relatively easy to detect and treat. Checking to see if a medical condition is responsible for the symptoms is the starting point of an evaluation of mood swings.
When changes in sleep and appetite begin to affect health, the person needs to be evaluated. Some people may not want any help. If they fear the stigma of having a mental illness, they need to know that many other things could be responsible for the changes in their behavior. This is especially true for anyone older than 40 years of age who develops signs of bipolar disorder.
When the mood swings have become so severe that a person cannot function at home or work
When a person has thoughts of suicide, especially with a specific plan as to how to take his or her own life
If the person might be a danger to self or others, he or she should be seen in a hospital emergency department.
Suicidal patients are hospitalized until their mood can be stabilized.
If the person refuses to go to the hospital, you may need assistance in getting him or her there. Call 911 if the situation is dangerous.
Above all, be sure of your own safety first. A person with bipolar disorder is probably not thinking clearly when in severe mania or depression. He or she may feel that the person calling for help is a traitor.
With a suicide attempt, call 911 so that the person can be treated in the emergency department. Don't try to take a person who has attempted suicide to the hospital by yourself.
Homicidal thoughts, threats, or behaviors require immediate intervention. Assure your own safety and then call 911 for help.