The Lowdown on Bipolar Disorder
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
What exactly is bipolar disorder. you may ask? What used to be called manic depression is now called bipolar disorder. It is a mood disorder that can sometimes be quite severe. Many believe that this mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance of the brain. You can go from one mood extreme to another mood extreme at the opposite end of the spectrum. You never know what will trigger an episode, it just happens. You can swing from elevated happiness and euphoria to slumbering sadness and sorrow—and it can happen within a period of months, weeks, or even hours. It all depends on what kind of cycle you are going through.
Types of bipolar
Bipolar I Disorder: This involves at least one or more manic or mixed episode/rapid cycling, and often one or more major depressive episodes. A depressive episode may last for several weeks or months. Your mood changes may also be related to the seasons and weather. A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood, accompanied by but not limited to hallucinations, grandiose feelings, and increased sexual desire
Bipolar II Disorder: One or more major depressive episodes with at least one hypo-manic episode. Hypo-manic episodes have symptoms similar to manic episodes, but are not as severe. Other forms of mania may include behaviors such as unexplained irritability, insomnia, and unacceptable social behaviors.
Cyclothymic Disorder: Is a mood disorder with repeated periods of mild depression, and periods of normal or slightly elevated mood. It lasts at least two years. It is the mildest form of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder With Mixed Features: A person will simultaneously have depression and mania. While this may seem paradoxically impossible to have a manic and depressed state all at the same time, the two mood states happen quite often with many bipolar people. Oftentimes those who have mixed episodes experience worse symptoms, with an increased risk of psychosis.
Other Symptoms May Include:
- Talking to fast or loudly
- Risky or impulsive behaviors
- Paranoia or hallucinations
- Lack of energy
- A loss of interest, no pleasure
- Thoughts of suicide
- Crying uncontrollably
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Unwarranted risk-taking
Keeping Track Of Everything
If you are lucky, the medications you are prescribed by a psychiatrist will work the first time you try them. It is not uncommon, however, to cycle through a menagerie of medications to find the one that works for you. Oftentimes you may need two or three to help you stabilize your cycles. You and your doctor can decide how many you need to for you to reach stability.
Another consideration is that each medication is associate with its own side effects. It may take some work to find the right medication or combination of medications that will allow you to live a normal, productive life without intolerable side effects.
Bipolar disorder is a manageable illness. It takes working with your doctors and consistency in your routine to make your life productive.
There will be times you are so depressed all you can think about is suicide. You find it extremely difficult to get out of bed for days on end. You pay absolutely no detail to your hygiene, or eating. You lock the door and lay in bed knowing the world has come to an end. Nothing matters; nothing exists outside of your bedroom walls. Your brain tells you life isn't worth living. You're just a big lump, waiting for a hole in the floor to suck you in. You want to die, because you believe there is no other way. You are convinced nobody likes you, anyway. So why bother? This is often the train of thought that goes along with someone who is in the very depressed phase of bipolar disorder.
Then there is the manic phase. You think you are the president of the United States. You are totally invincible. You believe you can fly, if you so desire. You have an unrelenting sex drive, and you feel the need to jump on a flight to another country for no reason other than you just know you need to do it. Your mind races so fast you can't keep up. The thoughts keep coming until they turn into voices you can't understand. You want to spend money, and shop for things you know you don't need. Sleep is elusive. You require very little, if any, for days at a time. You talk fast and loud, blaming others for not being able to keep up with you. Life may begin to slip out of control.
The fact is that bipolar can affect anyone. It is a serious mental illness that affects approximately 1% of the world population according to The World Health Organization.
Bipolar can be treated
There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but there are several treatment options. You can take mood stabilizing medications, anti-depressant medications, and, when necessary, anti-psychotic medications. Psychotherapy is also very useful. As a last resort, there is electro convulsive therapy (ECT). The most common treatment is mood stabilizing medications such as Lithium, Abilify, Depakote, and Tegretol.
Bipolar can carry a strong stigma that prevents some people from seeking treatment, because they are afraid of what others might think of them. There is the fear of losing a job because of preconceived ideas of what bipolar means or what the bipolar person might do. As mentioned above, it is a mental illness that can be treated with medication and therapy. It is possible to lead a normal life if the person diagnosed is treated and follows a stringent treatment plan.
Of course along with stigma comes the poor choices the bipolar person may make while in a manic phase. This might include run-ins with the law and trouble in personal or work relationships, all of which can create more shame and stigma.
It's important to realize, though, that bipolar is nothing to be ashamed of! You do not need to feel stigmatized because there are treatments and support groups to help you work toward stability and wellness. Bipolar is like any other illness that needs to be treated with medication. As long as you continue with a treatment option that controls your symptoms, you can often live a normal and productive life.
Keep track of your triggers. Recognize what stresses you out. Take notes on patterns that cause you to have mood swings. With this information you can begin to recognize your triggers and avoid them. By doing this, you will be able to manage your symptoms, inform your doctor, and make changes to your medication and life choices, if needed.
Keeping your regular doctor and therapy appointments is always crucial. Your doctors can't help you if you aren't helping yourself. Going off bipolar meds or changing them without consulting your doctor can cause episodes to return or get worse. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you intend to quit taking medications. Remember, along with proper medication, bipolar can usually be managed with therapy, support groups, family, and friends.
© 2008 Boo McCourt