Historically it had been far more comfortable to diagnose bipolar disorder as patients tended to have apparent symptoms requiring hospital admission.
Due to bipolar being talked about far more in recent times with celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Billie Ellish claiming that they have this mental condition as well, it has lost its stigma attached previously attached to it.
Therefore, bipolar has become far more recognizable by the public and diagnostically accepted as a disorder with several regular mood swings, making it far more underdiagnosed in the community as individuals tend to think they can manage it themselves or they find it is misdiagnosed as solely depression.
With that in mind, perhaps it is time to look at the signs that you may have underplayed in yourself or in someone you know, to see if you recognize them…
What is bipolar?
This mental condition is known as a mental illness that causes extreme mood swings from periods of hyperactivity and excited behavior, to deep depression.
Each mood period can last several months, although many people with bipolar can have stable periods in between episodes.
This is what misleading about this bipolar condition is that because there are periods of relative ‘normality’, it can easily be misdiagnosed as ADHD or other similar conditions.
So, bipolar disorder is a severe condition of extreme moods and behaviors that affects one in 50 people globally.
Sufferers swing between episodes of mania (feeling extremely ‘high’ and overactive) and depression (feeling low, lazy, and hopeless) and can cause hallucinations and delusions.
Sadly, it is estimated that as many as one in ten people with bipolar disorder will die by suicide.
Many of these symptoms could apply to anyone, depending on whether we have an up or down day, which makes it hard to diagnose. However, with bipolar disorder, most symptoms occur daily for weeks or months, even years.
Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression. It is a serious mental illness that can lead to risky behavior, damaged relationships and careers, and even suicidal tendencies if it’s not treated.
Doctors and medical researchers don’t completely understand the causes of bipolar disorder. But they’ve gained a greater understanding in recent years of the bipolar spectrum, which includes the highs of mania to its lows of depression, along with the various mood episodes in-between.
It is diagnosed by monitoring how long the symptoms last for as well as their severity, frequency, and length.
Because it is a lifelong condition, it can’t ever be fully cured. Still, early recognition of warning signs and seeing your doctor regularly to monitor your mood and medications will help prevent the illness from escalating.
Not long ago, bipolar disorder, which is characterized by fluctuations of mood, was referred to as ‘manic depression.’
This mania of moods can be associated with a range of impulsive behaviors, including substance use, promiscuity, and excessive spending, all of which can have adverse and severe consequences.
Although bipolar – which refers to the twin ‘poles’ of depression and mania, is cyclical in nature, it is not necessarily the case that everyone has this fluctuation of mood or the same severity.
Some people suffer from mild mania and yet severe depression; others have hypomania and mild depression – thereby indicating no 2 cases are the same.
Approximately 1-3% of people will display symptoms indicative of bipolar at some time in their lives. Still, many of them have other emotional difficulties present as well, such as anxiety or stress.
For a lot of people, the evidence of bipolar can be masked by other issues such as poor sleep, loss of appetite, anxiety, which is often put down as depression.
So, the main symptom associated with bipolar is mania.
When someone is going through a manic phase, they might feel unusually energized and happy for no particular reason. They may find they don’t need as much sleep, that they’re having lots of creative ideas, or that their mind is racing from one thought to another.
Some people start to have delusional thoughts, such as they are on a special mission, or that they have a superpower.
Mania can affect your decision-making skills as well – often leaving you in a vulnerable or dangerous situation.
Paranoia and delusional behavior are often associated with manic episodes – psychosis is common.
The other side of mania is depression, which means sufferers have a low mood for an extended period. This can affect energy levels, and make people feel less happy or interested in things they usually enjoy. It can cause suicidal thoughts and negative thoughts about oneself, occasionally leading to self-harming.
Help is at hand…
The symptoms of bipolar disorder might sound reasonably grim, and there’s no disputing; it can be a hard condition to live with.
However, most people who have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and who are in contact with the medical professions will very likely be offered medication.
This may take the form of antidepressants and/or antipsychotics to help reduce the effects of the lows and the highs, respectively – some may be offered lithium or sodium valproate, which can have various side-effects.
Psychological therapy has been known to augment pharmacological treatments. It may be effective in helping people reduce these mood swings, and to recognize the triggers which can precipitate both depression and mania. These talking therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy, which is how to manage your thoughts and behavior and how they impact on how you feel and will help to teach sufferers to manage their condition in a positive way.
People with bipolar disorder are often offered mood-stabilizing drugs to help with manic episodes, or antidepressants to help with the depressive periods.
It’s essential to identify the signs of bipolar disorder as soon as possible and to seek help from professionals.
You don’t have to suffer in silence – and it’s essential that you do not see bipolar as a life sentence.
With the right support, you can recover and get on with your life.
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