What Should I Know About Being Bipolar?

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Bipolar disorder, sometimes referred to as manic-depressive disorder, is characterized by wild emotional changes. These changes, from up to down, can happen instantaneously, without apparent reason. Bipolar disorder affects about 1% of the United States population, although that number does not include undiagnosed cases.

Bipolar treatment usually involves medication.
Bipolar treatment usually involves medication.

Bipolar disorder is defined as a major affective disorder where individuals alternate between states of deep depression and extreme elation. In other words, it is a psychological disorder, a mental illness, which affects the emotional state of the sufferer. They cycle between various extremes of the emotional limits. People suffering from bipolar disorder could be excited one moment but indifferent the next, or reckless and then listless.

Bipolar disorder is not curable, but it can be managed.
Bipolar disorder is not curable, but it can be managed.

The manic phases of bipolar disorder include moods such as extreme optimism, excitement, and an inflated self-esteem. Rapid speech, risky behavior, increased sex drive, increased agitation, inability to concentrate, and drug use are all possible signs of manic behavior. Depressive behavior, on the other hand, might be presented with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilty, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. In this phase of the illness, the sufferer may have sleeping problems, loss of appetite, irritability, chronic pain, and a loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy.

Utter hopelessness may be a symptom of bipolar disorder.
Utter hopelessness may be a symptom of bipolar disorder.

Treatment for bipolar disorder usually involves therapy and medications. Because bipolar is a disorder that lasts throughout a persons life, treatment is essential to learning how to manage the varying episodes of this disorder. Medications may include mood stabilizers, seizure medication (also to stabilize moods), anti-depressants, and anti-psychotics or anti-anxiety medications. Psychotherapy may include individual therapy, group therapy, and family counseling. Inpatient hospitalization for a short period of time may also be advisable, especially during severe depression episodes.

Individual therapy is often used to help people who are bipolar.
Individual therapy is often used to help people who are bipolar.

Although it is not curable, it is possible to live a relatively normal life with bipolar disorder. Taking prescribed medications as directed by a doctor is essential to managing this condition. Avoid drugs and alcohol. Not only can they interact negatively with your medications, they can aggravate your condition. Know your warning signs. If you start to feel yourself beginning a dangerous spiral into depression or extreme mania, seek help from a professional. Lastly, check with your doctor before starting any new medications, in case of a drug interaction. This includes over-the-counter medications like cold and flu medications.

Researchers are uncertain as to what exactly causes bipolar disorder, which was once called manic depression.
Researchers are uncertain as to what exactly causes bipolar disorder, which was once called manic depression.

Coping with bipolar disorder can be very difficult. It is important to remember that, first and foremost, you are not your disorder. It may affect your life, but it does not have to be your life. Keep your goals for life in mind, join a support group, and find a healthy outlet for frustrations. Learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder. Knowledge is power, and that is especially true for mental illnesses. Join a support group for people suffering from bipolar disorder. Also, learn and practice stress management and relaxation techniques. Striving for calm can help lessen the severity of maniac or depressive episodes.

The extreme mood swings associated with bipolar disorder may cause difficulty with day-to-day functioning.
The extreme mood swings associated with bipolar disorder may cause difficulty with day-to-day functioning.

If you are friends with, or related to, someone with bipolar disorder, it can be hard to understand what they struggle with. Learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder. This may answer a lot of questions you have about the other person’s personality quirks. Try to be as supportive as you can be, but recognize that it is not your job to take care of them. Know your own limits, what you can handle and what you cannot. It is acceptable to need help yourself. Rely on family and friends for the support you need, join a support group, talk to your doctor, or find a good counselor.

Bipolar disorder is a difficult condition to understand. Because the symptoms are so diverse, it is hard to know what each day will bring. During bad episodes, it can disrupt the life of a person who is suffering from it, resulting in job loss and financial problems. It is, however, a fairly manageable disorder under the care of a qualified doctor. Seeking medical support for your condition is the first step on the road back to a normal life.

Someone who is bipolar may have their mood affected by their environment.
Someone who is bipolar may have their mood affected by their environment.
Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal wiseGEEK writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

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Discussion Comments

anon38586

1. Meds don't always work and they wear out. The average person can expect many med changes through life and may find themselves with few options ultimately. 50 percent of people on lithium, for instance, may face kidney damage.

2. Active discrimination by health insurance companies. This condition is now judged the most expensive one to treat, and most insurers will not touch a bipolar person or agree to carry them unless forced to.

3. Great variation in treatment and quality of doctors. Keep searching for one that works for you.

4. Even when med-compliant, relapses. Expect these to occur with greater frequency the longer you have the condition.

5. Stupidity of others-- sometimes people will still think you can control this by just thinking positive. Don't waste your energy trying to convince them otherwise.

6. Other health specialists like family doctors that aren't aware of drug interactions-- make sure to run any prescribed meds for other conditions by your psychiatrist.

7. Frequent blood tests-- some meds require them and you should make sure to get them.

8. Weight gain-- while some are able to avoid this, many can't and obesity is not uncommon among people with BP.

elfi64

Apparently, in United States, there are as many as six million people with this disorder.

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