Bipolar Disorder: When mood swings go awry

Monday, July 01, 2013
Interview with Hollywood Psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy - Specializing in Adult, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Bipolar Disorder: When mood swings go awry

Being moody is one thing, however when your moods are uncontrollable, extreme, and take over many areas of your life, it turns into something more serious.


In 2011, Catherine Zeta- Jones went public with her personal experience with bipolar disorder - not because she wanted to mind you - but simply because it just "happened" to come out. While she has been quoted as saying she is 'sick' of talking about the issue and never planned or wanted to become the poster child of it, we should be thankful to her for putting a face on this mood disorder. Celebrity or not, living with bipolar disorder can be extremely difficult, especially when there is a stigma attached to it.


In this exclusive interview with Dr. Charles Sophy, we touch on the fundamental facts about bipolar disorder, hopefully boosting our knowledge, and shedding light on an issue that is often misunderstood, and many times, kept on the lowdown.


Dr. Charles Sophy is a world renowned psychiatrist practicing in Beverly Hills, California. His extensive knowledge and widespread exposure on television and radio programs, such as Dr. Phil and Anderson Cooper 360, has made him a trustful and appreciated source, not to mention, a household name. Dedicating his life and passion to the physical and mental well being of individuals from all walks of life, he continues to offer the media topics of interest with much needed useful and practical information.

What is the definition of bipolar disorder and is it the same as manic-depression?

Bipolar disorder (BPD) is a psychiatric mood disorder that causes shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. It is the same as manic-depressive disorder.

Are there different types of BPD?

Yes, there are several different types of BPD. They are:

Bipolar I Disorder involves periods of severe mood episodes ranging from mania to depression.

Bipolar II Disorder is a less severe form of mood elevation, with milder episodes of hypomania that alternate with severe depression.

Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS) is diagnosed when an individual’s symptoms are out of their normal range of behavior, but do not meet the diagnostic criteria for Bipolar I or II. The person may not have enough symptoms or the symptoms may not last long enough.

Cyclothymic Disorder is a mild form of BPD. The diagnosis is made when a person has episodes of hypomania that shift back and forth with mild depression for at least two years, but the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for the other types of BPD.


What are the symptoms of BPD?

The symptoms of BPD are disturbances of sleep and mood that infiltrate other areas of your life. SWEEP is an acronym I like to use for the areas – Sleep, Work, Eating, Emotional Expression of Self and Play. If you find yourself constantly struggling with several letters of SWEEP it’s a good indication that something is wrong.

Do we now know why someone becomes afflicted with this mood disorder? Can it derive from a traumatic experience?

The onset of BPD can be brought on by stress or substance abuse. However, most often BPD is genetic. The reason for this is that people with BPD average 30% more of a certain signal-sending brain cell. This increase in brain activity predisposes them to increased bouts of mania and depression.

It is possible to derive BPD from the stress of trauma or brain injury, but BPD does not always occur after those experiences.

What do we know about bipolar disorder today that we didn't know 10 years ago?

Several things are known about BPD today that we didn’t know ten years ago; it’s prevalence in children and adolescents, it’s genetic predisposition, new and more effective treatment options and improved testing leading to earlier detection and treatment, which in turn leads to more positive outcomes for patients with this disorder.

What are some misconceptions about bipolar disorder?

There are many misconceptions about BPD. A few are that you must be in a hospital to be treated, that you are psychotic (have lost touch with reality), that medications and their side effects make treatment difficult to comply with, that you are unable to keep a job, unable to marry, have children, or live as one would expect.

Can the severity of it vary from person to person?

Absolutely; the severity of BPD varies greatly from person to person as it is dependent on many variables such as gender, age of onset, genetics, other medical/psychiatric problems, and availability for early diagnosis and treatment.

Is it true that divorce rates are high for those living with BPD?

Yes, the divorce rate is high for BPD patients, however that may not be diagnosis dependent.

How is BPD diagnosed and what forms of treatment are there?

BPD is diagnosed using a very clear set of criteria as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Treatment options are decided upon by many factors including, but not limited to age, other medical/psychiatric problems, gender, and daily functionality.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, Demi Lovato, Britney Spears...these are just a few names that have been linked to BPD. Do you think celebrities coming out with their personal experiences can help others in the general public?

Definitely; having celebrities and other public figures be open about this psychiatric issue does a tremendous amount to breakdown stereotypes and helps pave the way for others to feel safe as they seek evaluation and care.


Do you think this mood disorder allows individuals to be more creative?

Yes; in many cases those afflicted with BPD are more creative during the hypomanic stage of the illness. However, they may suffer the very opposite when in the depressive stage.


How difficult is it to live with this disorder? Does treatment have to continue for life?

BPD is often a very difficult disorder to discern and diagnose. However, once diagnosed, BPD can be successfully treated several different ways. Depending on how the individual responds to treatment, their age of onset, gender, and current age, will all dictate how long treatment will need to be in place. Yes, sometimes it will need to be for life, but you need to remember that any treatment for PBD is a control for the disorder, not a cure.


For more information on bipolar disorder, and so much more, visit and check out his new phone app Dr. Sophy ON CALL on iTunes.