Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that many of us presume to understand but in reality, we only have a vague idea of what it actually is. This lack of complete understanding may leave us insensitive towards the people suffering from it. If you know someone with the disorder or if you’re looking to find answers as to what it means to have bipolar disorder, read on.
1. What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, as the name suggests, is a mental illness characterized by two alternating, polar states of mind. One mental state being of extreme elation often referred to as manic episodes and the other being characterized by sadness referred to as depressive episodes. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.”
2. How Many People Suffer From It?
According to a statistic published by the NIMH, about 2.6% of the adult American population have experienced bipolar disorder in a 12-month period. Of these cases, it was found that 82.9% of them were reported to be severe. As for the demographics of the lifetime prevalence, it was found that 5.9% cases were between the age groups of 18-29, 4.5% between ages 30-45, and 3.5% between ages 45-59.
3. What Are The Symptoms?
The symptoms of an individual going through a manic episode may include insomnia, feeling extremely energized, agitated, may experience racing thoughts, and might make reckless decisions. The symptoms of an individual having a depressive episode may include feeling a sense of hopelessness, sadness, and emptiness. They may not be able to focus and may think of suicide in some extreme cases. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Sometimes a mood episode includes symptoms of both manic and depressive symptoms. This is called an episode with mixed features. People experiencing an episode with mixed features may feel very sad, empty, or hopeless, while at the same time feeling extremely energized.”
4. How Is It Caused?
Most researchers report that there isn’t a single causative agent for the disorder but rather a number of factors that may have contributed including but not limited to environmental factors, genetics, and brain functioning.
5. Can It Be Treated?
Yes, bipolar disorder can be treated but one has to realize that it is a lifelong illness and that there is no permanent cure. The two popular treatment options, often said to be more effective when practiced together, is medication and psychotherapy. According to the NIMH, “Different types of medications can help control symptoms of bipolar disorder. An individual may need to try several different medications before finding ones that work best.” Psychotherapy can help provide emotional support and sense of direction in those who are suffering from the disorder. Most importantly, support and sensitivity from family and friends can go a long way in helping the individual.
6. What To Do When Your Loved One Has Bipolar Disorder?
You are already on the first step – that is educating yourself about the disorder. There are several non-profit organizations offering help and advice to cope and to further comprehend the issue. It is very important to be patient and understand that it’s may not possible to see a change in your loved one’s behavior immediately. Encourage your loved one to join a support group as this can help them feel accompanied and accepted during the process of healing. Very often, the people around those who are affected by the disorder tend to experience emotional stress and mental exhaustion so make sure you are receiving adequate emotional support as well.