Psychosis has two main components: hallucinations and delusions.
What are Hallucinations?
Hallucinations involve the senses: a person believes that they see, hear, taste or smell something that isn’t there. These including hearing your name called, seeing animals scurry around a chair or watching your own death like you would watch a movie. Many people with bipolar II don’t have to deal with hallucinations, but many of us do!. It needs to be talked about more.
The Role of Mania in Hallucinations
Bipolar I (one) has full blown mania, which means a person can have full blown psychosis with hallucinations during an episode. (This is true for depression as well, but it’s more common in full blown mania.)
Bipolar II (two) has hypomania and most research shows that hypomania rarely includes hallucinations, but those with bipolar II depression can definitely experience hallucinations.
I have rapid cycling bipolar II and have experienced hallucinations since age 19- I'm now 47. I mostly have hallucinations with a few delusions thrown in!
What Medications are Used to Treat Hallucinations?
Many people with bipolar disorder with strong or persistent hallucinations often need antipsychotics such as Abilify (Aripiprazole), Risperdal (Risperidone), Zyprexa (Olanzapine) and Seroquel (Quetiapine) to help with hallucinations. (These are also used as anti-mania drugs.) People with bipolar II (two) are often on these meds, but more for mood swings than strong psychosis.
It’s important to note that psychosis in bipolar disorder is always attached to a mood swing. (You can have psychosis with mania or psychosis with depression, but not alone. If you have psychosis without a mood swing, this is usually diagnosed at schizo-affective disorder).
Can Mood Stabilizers Help with Hallucinations?
If you treat bipolar disorder with mood stabilizers such as Lithium ( a natural occurring salt), Depakote (divalproex sodium), Tegretol (carbamazepine) and Lamictal (lamotrigine), you may be able to reduce the psychosis without an antipsychotic.
Whew! This is a great topic. People are scared of psychosis. There is no need to be, it’s just like any other symptom of the illness.
My blog answers the question: What are Bipolar Disorder Delusions?