Bipolar Disorder, once known as manic depression is a mental health condition, a lifelong condition that is marked by severe mood swings that involve experiencing emotional highs or mania or hypomania and experiencing emotional lows or depression. Emotional highs will give a person experiencing BD euphoric feelings, heightened energy level, or feelings of extreme irritability. Emotional lows, on the other hand, will give a person experiencing BD persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, losing pleasure in most activities that were once enjoyed, and losing interest in everything.
These emotional highs and lows are extreme that interfere with how they live their everyday lives. It can cause disruption in sleep, in one’s energy levels, in one’s self-esteem, appetite, in doing one’s obligations and activities, in paying focus and attention, in making rational judgments, in behaving, and in thinking clearly and rationally.
In addition to that, researchers suggested that in some cases, people suffering from Bipolar Disorder are also suffering from certain physical issues such as experiencing migraines, high blood pressure, and worse, they can also experience heart attacks.
Understanding Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder is a really serious mental health condition. It is very prevalent as well in our society. In the latest statistics, almost forty-six million worldwide are suffering from this. With fifty-five percent being men, and sixty-five percent being women. We can conclude that it is common, but with proper education and medical treatment, it is very treatable. It is possible for a person diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder to live a life that is normal, to do things they want to do, and to build relationships they want to build with other people.
With that being said, it is extremely crucial that we speak up against Bipolar Disorder, to raise awareness, to validate other people’s suffering, to be extra compassionate, and to encourage them to be treated as well.
After all, mental health is just as important as our physical health and most people say it is even more crucial, and I couldn’t agree more.
What Causes Bipolar Disorders?
Researches affirm that bipolar disorders are a result of combinations of certain factors such as:
Bipolar disorder is to be found more common and frequent if a certain person diagnosed has family members that suffer from it as well.
Researchers are suggesting that imbalances in neurotransmitters or hormones that affect our brains may play a role as well in developing bipolar disorder.
There are certain disrupted life events that might contribute to the development of bipolar disorders. Life events such as extreme abuse, extreme mental stress, traumatic events, or a “loss” can contribute to BD being developed in a person.
Kinds of Bipolar Disorders
Bipolar Disorder looks and manifests differently on individuals who experience it, regardless of it, however, they are all valid.
Bipolar I disorder
This involves experiencing mania “emotional highs” episodes lasting more than one week or more, in worse cases requiring hospitalization. The person also may experience “emotional lows” episodes or depression that typically lasts two weeks or more.
Bipolar II disorder
This involves experiencing both mania “emotional highs” and depression “emotional lows” but mania is less serious and critical than bipolar I, doctors named it hypomania. A person with bipolar II might experience a major depressive episode before or following a manic episode.
Commonly known as cyclothymia, this involves experiencing symptoms of hypomania and depression that occurs for two years or more in adults and one year for children. The symptoms do not entirely fit the symptoms of manic and depressive episodes. Bipolar I and Bipolar II are the most common and persistent, with Bipolar I being more severe when it comes to damaging emotional highs.
Three Main Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
There exist three main symptoms of Bipolar Disorder: episodes of mania, hypomania, and depression.
There are periods in the life of a person suffering BD that he/she feels fairly stable, fine at all. The symptoms really vary and may change from time to time.
A psychological condition that causes someone to experience obstructive euphoria, heightened moods, hyperactivity, and sometimes delusion. Episodes of emotional highs. During mania, the following might occur.
- Anger and Irritability
- Racing thoughts
- High energy level and periods of overactivity
- Difficulty concentrating/Complete loss of concentration
- High self esteem
- Inability to make decisions
- Intense happiness
- Heightened excitement
- Pleasure seeking behaviors: High sex drive, highly wanting alcohol and drug use
- Reckless behaviors, may be reckless sexual activity
Episodes of mania affect a person’s daily life, job, and relationship with other people. They affect one’s life outlook as well.
Symptoms of hypomania are similar to mania, only it is really less severe. However, it is really still noticeable and can still interfere with a person’s daily life, job, and relationship with other people.
While mania and hypomania exist and people with bipolar disorder experience that, they often experience depression more and tend to stay more in this episode, the majority of their time. Depressive symptoms of BD are the same as the symptoms of clinical depression. Thereby, the following might occur.
- Fatigue and low energy
- Feeling sad
- Insomnia/ or sleeping too much
- Loss of appetite/ Overeating
- Difficulty to concentrate
- Losing of interest to what once was enjoyable
- Low self esteem
- Low self worth
- Physical pain or aches with no obvious cause
- No motivation
- Suicidal thoughts/behaviors
While these are three symptoms to really occur and look out for, additional symptoms such as anxiety and psychosis might be experienced. Anxiety is feeling uneasy, or worried about an event, or a situation with an unknown outcome. It is sometimes a frequent, excessive, and really persistent state of worry and fear about one’s life situations. Psychosis, on the other hand, they are disconnecting from reality and instead will experience hallucinations, or delusions. It is experiencing, or hearing, seeing, or believing things that are not real.
Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder
Diagnosis of Bipolar I, a person must have had symptoms manifest to that in at least seven days, or if the symptoms are extreme and dreadful enough for hospitalization.
Diagnosis of Bipolar II, a person must have had at least one cycle of hypomania and depression.
Diagnosis of Cyclothymia, a person must have had many periods of uplifted mood or hypomania symptoms and periods of depression for at least two years, one year for children and teenagers. Their stable moods usually last for just less than two months.
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder may be a lifelong condition but it does not mean that it will continue as well to give lifelong suffering. There are lots of available treatments that we will unravel that will yield relief and better management of symptoms for them to not interfere as much in the lives of those diagnosed. For them to live a normal, live life as much as possible.
- Medications. There are medications that are intended to balance a person’s diagnosed moods, to provide immediate relief and comfort.
- Continued treatment. Their medications should be taken regularly, continuously throughout their lives since bipolar is a lifelong condition, even if they are feeling a hundred percent fine and stable or believe that they have been cured, it is not the case. There are cases that when a person diagnosed had skipped her medication, highly increased the risk of her bipolar symptoms immediately relapsing and resurfacing.
- Day treatment. This is an everyday treatment program that will provide a person diagnosed with the support and counselling you need while you are getting your symptoms under control. This will help the person diagnosed to maximize the effectiveness of his/her day and do a lot of things that he/she really wants to do.
- Substance abuse treatment. This is for people diagnosed with BD and at the same time suffering from alcohol or drug abuse. Alcohols and drugs will make BD symptoms worse to manage. Alcohol and drugs alter how medications work to their body. They are as well, very triggering. That is why it is extremely crucial for them to quit doing so in order to obtain betterment in their lives.
- Hospitalization. This treatment is when a person diagnosed is behaving dangerously, if he/she is feeling suicidal and or being psychotic. Hospitalization will help them be safe from themselves, since they might do self harm or harm others, to keep them calm, to help them in bringing back their normal moods.
The primary treatments of bipolar disorder are really medications and psychotherapy, to control their symptoms.
Let us discuss the medications used for Bipolar disorder.
- Mood stabilizer. This is to control manic or hypomanic episodes of the person diagnosed.
- Antipsychotic. This is to aid for the persistent depression or mania even though the person diagnosed is being treated already with other medication. Adding this might help alleviate the depression or mania symptoms.
- Antidepressant. This is typically added to manage further the depression of the person diagnosed.
- .Anti-anxiety medication. This is to help with feeling anxious and will help in aiding a better sleep routine pattern.
Let us discuss the psychotherapy used for Bipolar disorder.
Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT)
This aids in the stabilization of a person’s diagnosed with daily rhythms i.e. waking, mealtimes, sleeping. A stable and consistent routine allows for better handling of moods, and their management. This is beneficial since it allows a person diagnosed with BP a chance to establish daily routines of things and activities they want to incorporate in their lives effectively.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
This aids in identifying unhealthy, negative, and destructive behaviors, mindsets, and beliefs and replacing them with healthy, positive, and uplifting ones. It will also help in pinpointing what triggers your bipolar episodes to arise. Moreover, it will help in fostering mindfulness, healthy coping strategies for stress, anxiety, and upsetting situations.
This is provided for the loved ones of the diagnosed family member. This will educate them in understanding the bipolar disorder and how they can be present in fighting it. This will help, in making them know what they can do to support and reach their hands, to help foster a good loving relationship, to build mutual trust and respect with each other as well. Moreover, this will break the stigma that bipolar disorder is not real, that others may hold.
This focuses on how family support and communication can help and motivate the person diagnosed to keep on going, in treating their bipolar disorder. This will uplift their spirit, determination, and discipline, especially in times when they might be hitting rock bottom or feeling as though they will not get better, because trust us, they will.
Treating bipolar disorder will surely not be a smooth journey. There will be tough times, hopeless times, and painful times. But with consistency, patience, and determination, the path to betterment will arise. The journey might bring pain, but the end goal of becoming better is worth tenfold.
If you are one with bipolar disorder, how can you show support to yourself?
- Learn about your condition. Knowing all there is to know about your condition will empower you to better yourself, to stick with your treatment plan, to motivate you towards healing and towards living a life that you want, that you know to yourself you can achieve. Bipolar disorder should not be a hindrance, remember that.
- Stay focused on your goals. Goals of becoming better, goals of feeling relieved, goals of living life to the fullest? This is very achievable, only with consistency, determination, discipline and a ton of believing in yourself. Treating your condition is not going to be a road with a smooth lane, it is with a bumpy one but the destination towards healing is there, and you’ll get there.
- Foster relationships with people who understand. You should be in relationships with people who are willing to inform themselves with your condition, I am sure there are lots of those. This is to uplift in times when you are feeling down, to help you find comfort when the road to betterment seems to be hard and hopeless. More importantly, and generally, the quality of our relationships with other people impacts our well-being and certainly will make us a lot happier.
- Join a support group, look for your thrive. This can help you to relate to others the same as you, to give and take advice and comfort, and to help you cope with challenges circulating your condition. This can also motivate you to be better; moreover, your presence can motivate them as well.
- Develop healthy habits, and hobbies. This is to help you in bettering your lifestyle, healthy habits and habits will always produce healthy outcomes. Making time developing them will make you realize that nothing, not even your bipolar disorder can stop you from creating a life you want to be.
Lifestyle changes to incorporate with Bipolar disorder
Having a schedule
Plan your months, break it down into weeks, then show up to it every day. Having a schedule, day after day will help you synchronize your routine and provide familiarity. This is also helpful in building healthy habits and hobbies, in taking your medication on time, in going to your doctor’s appointment on time. This fosters discipline and consistency. This will help you manage your time and energy well, cutting off unnecessary things that might do no good, and might welcome harm, it is making you mindful and self-aware. More importantly, it helps in getting your moods intact and stable. With that being said, you can now buy yourself a planner and sort your priorities out. It will drastically change your life.
Prioritizing sleep hygiene
Being sleep-deprived will trigger one’s symptoms; moreover, it can make it worse. Getting great and adequate sleep will help to keep those moods intact and your symptoms alleviated. This will bring you comfort and also, your overall health will benefit since sleep does wonders for them as well. It is a win-win, so, prioritize getting adequate sleep. Sleep and wake up at the same time, do not engage in super stimulating activities as the time for bedtime emerges, and relieve your stressors as much as you can every day.
Engage in physical activities
Exercise is a great mood lifter, a very cheap yet very healthful way. Exercise is a great activity to do because not only it will make you your dream body, but your mental health will also celebrate all the feel-good chemicals it releases, making sure your mood is also stable. Moreover, this can help you sleep better at night. So, get that body moving, and you will thank them for doing so.
Eating a healthy balanced diet
There is no specific diet that is required for those suffering from bipolar disorder, but leaning towards healthy foods will make you feel better, and help you get those nutrients going to your body. Eating unhealthy food otherwise will just make you feel good, not even long term and it is not sustainable, moreover, it opens up the door towards diseases that can make an extra burden to your already hard life. The choice is always yours.
Manage stress the right and healthy way
Stress can cause anxiety and unnecessary exhaustion, it can also cause poor management of time and might opt for unhealthy coping mechanisms such alcohol, cigarettes, stress eating, moreover it can cause you to be rude to others and finally, it can amplify the symptoms of your bipolar disorder. Having good stress management i.e. you have a great set of coping mechanisms and relaxation activity will help ease those bad moods away, inhaling all the feel-good chemicals, and overall, help in making your everyday life a little better and stable.
Limit your caffeine intake
It can keep you up all night, thus disrupting what we should be working on, a healthy sleep pattern. There are instances when it can potentially alter your moods, thus, making way for your symptoms to arise. Replace caffeine with water, all-natural and organic juices, milk, and tea, and you’ll be a hundred times better.
Do not consume drugs and alcohol
These two can affect how your medications work. They also can turn your bipolar disorder into a worse and unbearable one, it is very triggering and overall really damaging. Not to mention that it can also worsen and harden the treatment of your condition.
If you are struggling to quit, always seek professional help. Keep this always, in your mind.
Harmful myths to stop believing relating to Bipolar disorder
Myth#1: Bipolar disorder is not real, it simply does not exist.
Bipolar disorder has been recognized as a real mental health condition, it exists. Its existence must be constantly spoken to spread awareness and encourage those who are suffering in silence.
Myth#2: Bipolar Disorder is a very uncommon condition.
Bipolar Disorder is a common mental health condition. Spreading that this is rare will discourage those to speak up and treat their condition, this might invalidate the suffering they are experiencing.
Myth#3: Bipolar Disorder is just a mood swing that really, all people have.
We all have the capacity to change moods, but BD holds extremity that affects their everyday life, studies, jobs, and how they form relationships with other people. Not to mention their symptoms are very damaging to their well-being.
Myth#4: Mania is great, because that means you are in an extremely good mood.
While they may feel good, it does not usually last and without treatment, it can be terrifying and alarming. Mania needs to be managed as well, because they can make alarmingly bad impulse decisions, not to mention they can lose touch with reality.
Myth#5: It is impossible to help someone who have Bipolar disorder
People with Bipolar Disorder are not someone who holds treatment, harm, and someone who is a lost cause. With effective medication and psychotherapy, they can live their lives as normal as those who do not have this condition. They will, and are able to do things they love and they hold passions about, they will be able to excel in their career, and certainly, they can form significant relationships with other people.
Bipolar disorder exists, and we should always speak about its existence to further plant knowledge to people and those who are still undiagnosed.
Bipolar Disorder is a lot to deal with, but it can surely be manageable and bearable with treatments, support, understanding, and a lot of persistent discipline and consistency. If you suspect that you have one or that your loved ones do have one, we encourage you to seek professional help as soon as possible. Bipolar Disorder should not be left untreated for it is really a nightmare to live by, we urge you to consult physicians to get you, or your loved ones to get started.
If you are one with Bipolar Disorder, I hope that this information sheds light on your understanding of your condition. This is meant to help and educate you, more to empower you to be better, take control of your condition, and treat them as much as you can. Further research about Bipolar is always encouraged to maximize better understanding.
Remember that people who are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder are human beings at the end of the day. The stigma around Bipolar Disorder being “fake” and people diagnosed are “crazy” is simply not true. Always keep in mind that what they are experiencing is not something they have complete control over. Let us always extend our understanding and compassion to other people’s struggles.