Q: What is bipolar disorder?
A: Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive, is a mental health condition characterised by extreme mood swings that include periods of mania or hypomania and depression. These mood episodes can be disruptive and significantly impact a person's daily functioning, relationships, and overall well-being.
Q: What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?
A: The symptoms of bipolar disorder vary depending on the mood episode. During manic episodes, individuals may experience elevated mood, increased energy, impulsivity, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep, and grandiose beliefs. In depressive episodes, symptoms include sadness, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and suicidal thoughts.
Q: How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?
A: Diagnosing bipolar disorder typically involves a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional. A psychiatrist will assess symptoms, duration, and frequency of mood episodes, and consider other factors such as family history and the impact on daily functioning.
Q: What causes bipolar disorder?
A: The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not known, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Research suggests that imbalances in certain brain chemicals, such as neurotransmitters, play a role. Additionally, stressful life events, substance abuse, and irregular sleep patterns can trigger or worsen mood episodes.
Q: How is bipolar disorder treated?
A: Treatment for bipolar disorder often involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. Mood stabilizers, such as lithium or anticonvulsant medications, are commonly prescribed to manage mood swings. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can help individuals understand and cope with their symptoms. Additionally, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, managing stress, and avoiding substance abuse are important for managing the condition.
Q: Can people with bipolar disorder lead normal lives?
A: With proper treatment and support, individuals with bipolar disorder can lead fulfilling lives. Medication and therapy can help stabilize mood swings and manage symptoms effectively. Building a strong support network, practicing self-care, and adopting healthy coping strategies are also crucial. It's important for individuals to work closely with healthcare professionals, communicate openly, and adhere to their treatment plans to maximise their chances of achieving stability.
Q: Are there any complications associated with bipolar disorder?
A: If left untreated or poorly managed, bipolar disorder can lead to various complications. Substance abuse, relationship problems, financial difficulties, and difficulties at work or school are common challenges individuals may face. Additionally, bipolar disorder carries an increased risk of suicide, so it is crucial for individuals and their loved ones to be vigilant about recognizing warning signs and seeking help in times of crisis.
Q: Can bipolar disorder be cured?
A: At present, there is no cure for bipolar disorder. However, with ongoing treatment and self-management strategies, many individuals with bipolar disorder can effectively manage their symptoms and lead productive lives. It is important to work closely with healthcare providers to develop a personalised treatment plan and maintain regular follow-up appointments to monitor progress and make any necessary adjustments.
“This bipolar weather is driving me crazy!” You hear your colleague say.
When you experience bipolar disorder, you can sometimes be shaken up by some of the negative comments you hear about your neurodivergence from those around you. Hearing comments like this that use the label “bipolar” to describe unstable and unpredictable things and behaviours is one way that individuals and society as a whole stigmatise bipolar. Because of this stigma, it’s sometimes difficult to create a positive view of your neurodivergence.
In a study conducted by researchers at the University College London, they found that there are two forms of stigma that individuals with mental health conditions, especially bipolar, can experience. They are:
Let’s start with public stigma. Comments like those mentioned earlier in this article make it difficult to have a healthy relationship with and view of bipolar. But it’s not just comments that are stigmatising, but also different views that the public has of bipolar. This includes views such as:
Public stigma like these shape how individuals with bipolar disorder are treated. For example, historically, those with mental health conditions like bipolar were often institutionalised for the majority of their lives. However, over time, the public, and especially health professionals, has started to understand that it’s possible for those with mental health conditions to live independent and stable lives. Stability and independence is possible with proper care and treatment for the condition. Nevertheless, while there have been positive changes in how people with mental health conditions are treated, there is still a long way to go.
The second type of stigma is internalised stigma. Internalised stigma is often shaped by public stigma. For example, if you’re constantly told by people around you that your mental health condition is due to “weak faith”, then you might think that praying more could help you “take away” your condition. You might also think that getting treatment from a professional is “unnecessary.”
Likewise, the public view of mental health as only affecting the mind can shape how you view your mental health. For example, you might think that you’re “lazy”, “a loser,” or “a negative person” when you have a depressive episode. You might also ignore the research that shows how moods like depression and mania impact different areas of your life from your energy levels to your sleep patterns.
That being said, when you think of your relationship with bipolar, it’s important to unpack the negative assumptions you’ve learned and internalised from the public. It’s also important that you begin to form a healthier view of what it means to have bipolar. Remember, it’s never too late to change your mind on mental health!