Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that used to be called manic depression, and is also known as a mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the most usual time for the disorder to be triggered in a person is age 25, although it has been known to be diagnosed in the teenage years, and in unusual cases, in childhood. NAMI states that around 2.6 million people in the United States have been diagnosed as bipolar, with around 83% of cases being documented as extreme. The most common symptoms of bipolar are dichotomous emotional mood swings that can have an impact on the person’s daily life. One side of bipolar is depression that causes the individual to lose interest in their life, have fatigue, and experience hopelessness. The other side is a mental sensation called mania (or in less severe cases, hypomania), where a person may experience a surge in energy, feel a sense of euphoria (i.e. feeling invincible) and/or feel angry to an abnormal extent. Some outcomes of these mentalities are lost sleep, increased energy, irrational thinking, and reckless behavior.
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As far as the bouts with mania and/or depression are concerned, the symptoms of both manifest themselves in various ways. For instance, when a person experiences mania, they endure what is known as racing thoughts, where it feels like their imagination is thinking about many different things at the same time. The person may go on shopping sprees as part of the manic energy, indulge in unsafe sexual activity, and/or have difficulty sleeping. As far as when the person experiences depression, they may lose that manic energy completely and have difficulty getting out of bed, be extremely drowsy, forget things and have suicidal thoughts/think about death. Symptoms of psychosis stem from being both manic and depressed. The person may hallucinate and think that they are rich and famous, have superhuman abilities, and think they have done something illegal and/or be destitute.
There are different types of bipolar disorder, all of which carry various challenges for those that are diagnosed to overcome and cope with. One of the types is Bipolar I Disorder, which is viewed as a person experiencing a bout of mania, which occurs either beforehand or subsequently to hypomania and/or depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, an added challenge to the the mania may entail the person not thinking realistically (a.k.a. psychosis). Another type is Bipolar II Disorder, which is viewed as a person experiencing a bout with both depression and hypomania, but not mania itself. A third type is Cyclothymic Disorder, which is viewed as a person that has had a minimum of two years (and in the case of teens and children, one year) of persistent bouts with hypomania and depression. The fourth type is Bipolar Disorder “other-specified” and “unspecified,” which is when a person’s symptoms do not match the criteria for the aforementioned types of bipolar disorder, but experience emotional mood swings anyway.
A person may not realize how much their bipolar symptoms are impacting the lives of those around them, and thus may not seek out the appropriate help to improve the condition. This can be because the person feels good about the symptom of euphoria as it increases their productivity. However, after the euphoria has concluded, the person is left in a depressive state and may have serious repercussions to face (e.g. relationship, financial, and legal issues). The suggestion amongst the psychological community is that a person should get assistance from a medical professional if they experience the manic and/or depression symptoms. According to the NAMI, some of the most well-known treatments for bipolar are certain medications (e.g. anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers) and psychotherapy (e.g. cognitive-behavioral therapy, therapy within the family, electroconvulsive therapy).
Bipolar disorder is a condition that has very serious emotional implications for those that live with it, both in their own lives and from a societal stigma perspective. There are known medications to lessen the impact of the symptoms, but it is still a significant challenge for those that must cope with it on a daily basis. Like any mental disorder, the world is developing in its understanding of bipolar disorder. However, bipolar disorder is becoming more and more well-known. While there are generalized stereotypes due to its reputation, the people that live with it are getting treatment and living productive lives despite it.
Disclaimer: This writer is not a medical professional and is simply looking to inform people on how this disorder works.
Michael Westwood is a 25 year old college graduate from Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Independent of being a contributor to Step Up, he is looking to pursue a career in professional writing of some type. His hobbies include watching professional wrestling (e.g. WWE and other promotions) and watching select TV sitcoms from today's television (e.g. Big Bang Theory, The Goldbergs) and classic programs as well (e.g. Seinfeld, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond). He also has an ongoing online forum designed to inform people about the autism spectrum called "Ask Mike," which is part of an autism awareness group called All 4 Autism, which is based in Florence, South Carolina.