The following is a guest post generously shared with us by Ralph Macy, a marketing executive and freelance writer.
“Except you cannot outrun insanity, anymore than you can outrun your own shadow.” – Alyssa Reyans, Letters from a Bipolar Mother
Commonly, the features of mental illness are difficult to discuss. This is because there is too much stigma in society which is circling around the matter of mental health. You’ll also often hear people discussing that due to bipolar disorder if a person switches moods or personality, it means that person is moody or manic from the very beginning.
But that is not true. facts about bipolarThe bipolar disorder is normally characterized by sudden mood swings and can lead to mental conflicts in your personal relationships. The National Institute of Health estimated that approximately 2.6 million Americans are currently suffering from this disorder.
It is pretty much obvious that many of your friends, family or relatives are affected by this disorder and you might be facing the challenges in supporting them. In order to provide the best possible support from your part, you might have to remember certain things while dealing with a person experiencing bipolar disorder.
1. They aren’t experiencing symptoms.
“If I can’t feel, if I can’t move, if I can’t think, and I can’t care, then what conceivable point is there in living?” ― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
A person with bipolar disorder may experience short term, an extreme transformation of the mind, mood, and energy levels, but it’s not a steady change of the mind.
These short term situations, a.k.a “episodes” may be categorized into several types:
- Mania– This episode is typically known for its high energy and activity levels, low sleep levels, and/or increased confidence level or euphoric feelings. Sometimes, a person may also experience irritation and agitation while being in this episode.
- Hypomania– This episode is a less severe version of mania but still shows some characteristics of high energy and activity while having a low level of sleep.
- Depression– A depressive episode is known for its sad or down expression, fatigue, lack of concentration/confidence, and the increased tendency of committing suicide.
- Mixed – A mixed episode denotes a mental state where characteristics of a manic or depressive episode are mixing with some symptoms of the opposite mood state.
The types of episodes are depending on whether you have bipolar I or II. But don’t forget, symptoms can be different than you have expected as other conditions related to bipolar disorder may also vary considering patient’s mind. So, how the patient will feel or act during his/her bipolar episodes can also vary and it is quite subjective.
2. They need to go through a lot of complex medications
Usually, medications used for treating bipolar disorder doesn’t have a similar effect on everyone. So, each patient has to go through several complex medications in order to get the best result. This kind of treatment requires sufficient time and energy from the patient. As a result, sometimes it can lead patients into a level of stress.
When the medications start working and stabilize the mental situation of a patient, it may take a few weeks to adjust. These medications will remove some of the symptoms and effects of a human brain to cure the patient. When these symptoms and their effect started to dissolve, the patients may feel it boring and exhausting. To get back that excitement or the sensation, patients initially can be tempted to stop the medications. So, it should be checked regularly that a person having a bipolar disorder must take his/her medicines regularly.
3. Their goals and aspirations may shift suddenly“Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me.” ― Vincent van GoghClick To Tweet
Patients of bipolar disorder have an intense desire to handle multiple works and goals to fulfil, when they are experiencing a mania episode. But when they started to submerge in depression, they might lose the confidence and passion to achieve the goals that once kept them excited. This may create problems when they are in schools or at work. So, you need to motivate them for staying on track during therapy, and to keep their life stable.
You should remember that behind this mental state (mania and depression) there are people who are suffering deeply. Bipolar disorder can make human personality quite a bit fluctuated or fluid, but that doesn’t totally wipe out the person inside of the brain and their emotions. It doesn’t change their morals or beliefs. They still trust love and think about those persons who they care about.
4. Bipolar disorder can be deceiving as other illnesses
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) added that bipolar disorder is quite difficult to diagnose clinically. It is because the symptoms of bipolar disorder might be mistaken as other illnesses due to their similar characteristics.
Patients having bipolar disorder may also suffer from other mental conditions at a time, for example – anxiety, schizophrenia, or depression. It can be too difficult to distinguish the symptoms of bipolar disorder from those other symptoms as well.
Igor Galynker, M.D., associate chairman for research in the department of psychiatry at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, explained – “It can take 10 years in some cases to diagnose bipolar disorder correctly…Especially if you have someone who has subclinical symptoms, oftentimes in cases of bipolar II, when hypomania isn’t affecting a person’s ability to function.”
Dr. Galynker also explained how bipolar episodes cycle and present in a human mind – “It depends on the person, age, illness severity, which medications they are being treated with now, which medications they were treated with previously, whether they are taking their medications—all sorts of factors.”
So, you need to know that, bipolar disorder can be very critical to cure and handle. “Part of what makes for successful treatment is keeping open and regular communication between a patient and their doctor,” Dr. Galynker added.
5. Talking openly about their disorder is often struggling to them“Before I die I'd love to see my name on the Famous Bi Polar list I'm not ashamed of my Illness I believe most of my talent comes from it.” ― Stanley Victor PaskavichClick To Tweet
The people going through a bipolar disorder may struggle to open up with their issues to another person. It might need a lot of self-confidence to tell their weaknesses to another person by trusting him/her, even though he or she is really want to help that person. Sometimes people don’t understand the explanation given by their loved ones, especially in such a critical disorder.
You have to make the patients understand that if they decide to be open about their bipolar diagnosis, the people who share their problems are trying to support them to fight the stigmas and spread the awareness about the bipolar disorder.
Know bipolar disorder facts as much as possible and help those who are suffering from it.
Many popular celebs including Carrie Fisher, Demi Lovato, Van Gogh, Van Damme, Cobain, Churchill, Nightingale, Sinatra, Woolf, and many more names willingly shared about their diagnosis and lead the way for others who are struggling and uneducated.
6. They experience the ups and downs of life more than normal
Patients with bipolar disorder may feel the ups and downs of life even more. So, you must respect this difference and do not expect something unreasonable from them.
These people are quite “normal.” They eat, drink, breathe and exist the same way as normal people do but in a broader spectrum. Every human emotion, good or bad, sorrow or happiness, freedom or innocence, they experience these feelings from a greater perspective.
Being a common people you must understand that bipolar disorder makes people more sensitive than ever. So, people who are suffering from this issue may react in any matter, with more emotions than you.
7. You can’t just snap out of a mood episode
“Everything is, the way it is, for a reason. Or it isn’t. Or neither. Or both. It’s so hard to tell. It’s so hard to tell you’re a mile away by Luke in your eye.” – Alistair McHarg, Invisible Driving
Patients having mania/hypomania or depression must go through proper medication to treat their symptoms. Dr. Galynker added – “One cannot pull themselves out of a mood episode. “Sometimes people will have this awareness that they are in or near an episode, but not all the time depending on the person’s own level of awareness and familiarity with their symptoms as well as the severity.”
Medicines for bipolar disorder can cure mania, hypomania, and depression, but other drugs can only provide support in certain episode types.
“Like all of us, for a person with bipolar, their mood can change before they’re necessarily even aware of it. We call this insight—do you have insight that you’re not behaving and thinking in your normal, healthy fashion?” Dr. Marsh added. “but it tends to be that people who have insight during their early episodes keep that insight, and those who don’t have that insight are less likely to have it moving forward,” she explained.
8. Children and teenagers too can be the victim of bipolar disorder
Most of the patients suffering from this disorder since they were teenagers, as per the NIMH. However, younger teenagers and children may develop it, too.
So, it is very difficult to diagnose this disorder in children and teenagers as their symptoms cannot be fully diagnosed through the specific criteria, as reported by Mayo Clinic. Children and teenagers having bipolar disorder may also have a few additional mental or behavioral health problems, like – attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). So, you should consult a specialized child psychiatrist if someone close to you is still a child and have bipolar disorder.
9. Don’t use the disorder to judge their behaviors“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.Click To Tweet
If a patient of bipolar disorder behaves rudely with you, don’t just tell that it’s his/her disorder that made him/her do that. Don’t refer to their actions as a sign of their disorder.
Also, if your close one gets too much angry, don’t force them to be calm. You should leave that place immediately and ask for help from a senior person or a doctor, whom you trust.
10. Bipolar disorder medicines may affect birth control and pregnancy
Female patients of bipolar disorder who want to become pregnant or are already pregnant, must consult with their doctors. The prescribed medicines can go through the placenta and enter breast milk, which can be harmful to the baby. Various drugs given to bipolar patients may cause serious birth defects, as per the Mayo Clinic.
On the other hand, some medications such as anti-epilepsy drugs may reduce the effect of birth control pills.
Living with bipolar disorder is a big quest. But, if you know about all the bipolar disorder facts and its treatment, with deep compassion you can definitely help your patient to achieve happiness.
As per Dr. Galynker, with proper support of family and friends, a patient with bipolar disorder may manage their illness beyond expectation.