Imagine being unable to control your emotions, alternating between feeling extremely elated then feeling your emotional state slump into a state of depression. You may be going through the days with less sleep (or sometimes none at all), while taking on multiple projects at a time, overworking yourself to the point of experiencing over-fatigue, and then crashing and burning badly because it feels like you’ve been on the hamster wheel for three months—because indeed, some manic episodes do last that long.
Bipolar disorder is one of the most common mental health issues that somehow still has a number of myths and misconceptions associated with it. That is why we have gathered some information that you need to know about having bipolar disorder in order to understand how it can affect your day-to-day life.
How common is it?
Bipolar disorder is not as rare as to how you think it might be. In fact, there are many well-known celebrities such as Demi Lovato, Russell Brand, Carrie Fisher, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse who have been known by the public eye to have struggled with the disorder. Even high-profile people such as Winston Churchill and Vincent van Gogh have also had to deal with the stress of the high and low episodes.
It is also estimated that at least 1 in every 100 people have manic-depression or bipolar disorder. In Australia alone, approximately 1.7% of females and 1.8% of males are currently dealing with bipolar disorder. With people between the ages of 16-24, it is estimated that 3.6% of the females and 3.2% of the males are also dealing with it.
What increases the likelihood of the person to develop bipolar disorder?
A lot of people associate bipolar disorder with an attention-seeking personality, however, that is also a symptom that is commonly dismissed by many. There are many risk factors that can increase the likelihood of the person to develop bipolar disorder, including the following:
- Genetics – there have been several studies that suggest that the genetic component of a person plays a big role in making him or her more vulnerable to developing bipolar disorder.
- A chemical imbalance in the brain – just like in other mental illnesses, the neurotransmitters of the brain can play a key role in this disorder.
- Psychological state – people who have been exposed to stressful life events such as a loss of a loved one, trauma, or a history of physical and sexual abuse can further complicate the growth of the person and exacerbate the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
What are the common misconceptions?
Despite the fact that there is a lot of information regarding bipolar disorder available all over the Internet, a lot of people still associate certain misconceptions with this illness, such as:
- It’s just rapid mood swings – most people directly accuse someone of having bipolar disorder when they notice a frequent shift in their mood, however, that is not actually a symptom of the condition because it is less about mood swings and more about episodes of elation and depression that can last for a few days, weeks, and even months.
- Every mood is caused by bipolar disorder – just as how much an average and mentally-healthy person deals with a few or several mood changes in a day, it is also possible with those who have bipolar disorder. However, not every mood should be tied to the condition. People are capable of feeling aggravated, happy, or angry without having to blame it on the disorder itself.
- There is only one type of bipolar disorder – Wrong. The severity of the episodes and the intensity of the moods all determine which type of bipolar disorder a person has—all of which are categorized into four types: Bipolar I (severe manic and depressive episodes), Bipolar II (a milder form of mania with severe depressive episodes), Cyclothymia (severe manic episodes and mild depressive episodes), and Bipolar Disorder Otherwise Not Specified (does not fall under any category for not following a specific pattern).
What are the symptoms?
Individuals who are bipolar typically wouldn’t initially self-diagnose themselves with it, instead, 20% of them complain to their doctors about having depression only to discover that they have bipolar disorder. It is because they recognize the depression more than they’re able to notice their own manic episodes, mistaking it only for a normal or better mood. Here are the following symptoms of both mania and depression:
- A decreased need for sleep or having troubles sleeping
- Unusual talkativeness by burning through topics at a fast speed
- The illusion of self-importance or grandiose
- Evident hyperactivity
- Increased libido or interest in sex
- More tendencies to act recklessly such as with driving, overspending, binge drinking, or involving oneself in risky business ventures
- Trouble concentrating
- Easily irritated by trivial things
- Easy to feel down, unhappy, and empty
- Increased anxiety
- Slowed down speech due to low energy
- Rapid change in eating habits such as eating too little and evident weight loss
- Change in sleeping habits by having too much or too little
- A decrease in libido or interest in sex
- A tendency for having suicidal thoughts
- Feeling of hopelessness
How will it affect your day-to-day life?
Blaming yourself for having bipolar disorder will not help your situation for it should be treated like physical ailments such as asthma, diabetes, cancer, or arthritis. Having bipolar disorder can cause you to abandon your responsibilities, hijack your personal relationships with your friends and family, and can even make you abuse certain substances and alcohol. The best way to deal with it is to understand the disorder fully and make sure you have the utmost emotional support of your loved ones around you.
When should you get professional help?
For most cases, it takes up to 10 years before an individual with bipolar disorder can be diagnosed with the condition. You could have gone through several episodes of elation and nervous breakdown and still wouldn’t recognize that you have bipolar disorder. If you have noticed any of the manic or depressive symptoms, that would be the perfect time to see a professional, like those at Psychologists Southern Sydney, so that you can fully address the issue with proper therapy and treatment. With the right help, you will be able to understand yourself better, and function more productively and healthily.
About Author – Janice Killey
Janice has a wealth of experience and training. She holds a Diploma of Education, Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), Master of Arts (Counselling), Diploma of Clinical Hypnotherapy (ASH) and is a Registered Psychologist at Psychologists Southern Sydney. She’s also a member of the Australian Psychological Society.