- a mental disorder marked by alternating periods of elation and depression.
Before you read this post I have a single request. My request to you is that you disregard all prior judgments surrounding Bipolar Disorder in which you thought you knew. Because you may very well be wrong. And that is alright. For when it comes to discussions surrounding this disorder, society has a way of insinuating that persons with Bipolar Disorder are “crazy”. Well, they’re not. People with this Bipolar Disorder have chemical imbalances in their brain, which inhibits or prevents their neurological pathways from functioning effectively. Bipolar persons may experience abnormal thoughts, unusual behaviors, and more importantly intense emotions. This happens because their neurological pathways begin to go haywire. To be specific, there is too much stimuli in their brain to keep up with.
That is the amount of people who have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in the United States alone. To clarify, those 5.7 million are only the documented cases. So yes, theoretically speaking there could absolutely be more individuals living with this disorder. Many of which may not have a clue. One of my best friends Kiyonna is apart of that 5.7 million documented cases. She is not crazy. She does not have multiple split personalities. She is not dangerous. But she is loved unconditionally.
To better understand Bipolar Disorder as a whole, it is essential we dissect vital terminology associated with the disorder.
- great happiness and exhilaration.
- feelings of severe despondency and dejection
- a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.
- mental illness marked by periods of great excitement, euphoria, delusions, and overactivity
- a mild form of mania, marked by elation and hyperactivity
In transparent form, Bipolar Disorder is a fluctuation between a state of happiness and a state of sadness. The average age of onset for Bipolar Disorder predominantly ranges from early adolescence to early twenties. So when you hear someone reference the analogy “ hot and cold” for example, this is possibly what they mean. Now there are four types of Bipolar Disorder we need to acknowledge. Type I Type II, Cyclothymia Disorder, and Bipolar “other specified” or “unspecified.” I will mostly discuss Bipolar I and II, since these are the two main diagnosis of the mental health disorder.
Bipolar I is also known as Manic Depressive Disorder or Manic Disorder. A manic episode is defined as a period of great excitement, euphoria, delusions, and overactivity. Manic episodes can range from mild to extremely severe. An individual may feel sensationally euphoric or “on top of the world”, which may encourage them to engage in risky behaviors. Persons experiencing mania may have a heightened drive to accomplish anything that they set their mind to. This could range from cooking a twenty-guest dinner in three hours, or attempting to fly a plane with no prior training. Do you identify the drastic ranges? I hope so. Characteristics of mania are: rapid/pressured speech, excessive spending, hypersexuality, elevated energy, idea hopping, substance abuse, and lack of sleep. Untreated mania can last from about 14 days to several months. The low end of Bipolar I is a depression state or a low mood. An individual’s depressive state can include feelings of hopelessness, and low self worth. This many encompass some suicidal ideations, but not necessarily. Every person and their symptoms vary.
Bipolar II is similar to Bipolar I except the fluctuation between elation and depression is not “full blown”. In other words, an individual experiencing a manic episode does not reach the full threshold of emotional intensity. We term this form of mania hypomania. Hypomania translates to below, so is literally a milder form of mania. Yes there is still hyperactivity brain stimuli, however it is not as severe as Type I. Another difference to recognize in Bipolar I and II is that individuals with Type II battle depression more frequently than hyperactivity. In Bipolar II, the depressive state is commonly named Manic Depression. Type II individuals are generally “normal” functioning and have minimal daily living and activity interference. My best friend Kiyonna is diagnosed with Bipolar II, and each day is very different. For instance, Kiyonna may have a surprisingly mellow reaction in an anger-provoking scenario, or she may become upset over something that may be appear minor to someone without Bipolar II. Prior to meeting Kiyonna I was completely ignorant to Bipolar as a whole. I myself thought it was just persons with uncontrollable mood swings. Now I know this is not the case. In college, my friends and I would joke about how Ki was “crazy” or hot tempered. Not because she has Bipolar Disorder,, but because she was… the savage one! She was the friend who shut things down when situations got out of control. She was also the type of friend you want by your side to be your backbone when you did not have one. For that I will always love her. In retrospect calling her crazy was not the best choice of wording as I stand here more educated on this mental health disorder. So I’m sorry for that.
Now that we’ve learned more on Bipolar Disorder, I would like to educate you more on treatment options. I find it crucial to comprehend how serious it is to have treatment with Bipolar. Even though Bipolar Disorder is not a curable disorder, it is manageable one. There are several treatment options for those diagnosed with this disorder. The most commonly used treatments are mood stabilizers, antipsychotic, and antidepressants.
Two regularly administered mood stabilizers are Lithium and Depakote. Both medications work to reduce mania in individuals with Bipolar Disorder I and II. Depakote is used to also reduce symptoms of intensed mixed manic episodes. A combination of both medications may coexist, however in milder diagnoses Depakote and Lithium may also be administered separately.
Antipsychotic medications are primarily used in combination with mood stabilizers in many Bipolar patients. The purpose of antipsychotics are to suppress and eliminate psychosis. Psychosis may present in various measures. I would also like to clarify that not only persons with Bipolar Disorder can be psychotic. That stereotype is completely inaccurate. In the cases of psychosis, individuals may experience auditory and visual hallucinations ( aka seeing and hearing things). Now these things can be any and everything all at once. Someone can be seeing objects, people, imaginary things etc. People may also hear voices internally and externally. I have firsthand seen patients responding to internal stimuli such as their voice. I have also had colleagues disclose that their own patients were hearing “demons”. Every person and diagnosis is unique from the next. Some treatment medications for psychosis are Haldol, Abilify, and Zyprexa.
Lastly, antidepressants play a significant role in treatment with those who fight Bipolar Disorder. Antidepressants are medications which prevent or control one’s depression. Recall that depression is integrated in Bipolar, and is also the low end of the disorder. The two are related but not the same. It is important to be able to recognize the differences. Just because someone is depressed does not necessarily mean they are Bipolar. However, one who is Bipolar also presents with depressive symptoms. Commonly used antidepressants are: Lexapro, Prozac, Paxel, Celexa, and Zoloft.
The purpose if this particular post was to drop some knowledge on Bipolar Disorder. People live with this disorder on a daily basis, and we as a community have to diminish the stigmas rooted behind the name Bipolar. One of my best friends remind me every single day of that. She is one of the strongest women I know. In minority communities especially, we have to block the labels “crazy” and “mad”. We have to quit using analogies like “ The weather is bipolar” and “ You’re hot and cold!”. It is ignorance in addition to an insult of those literally living with Bipolar Disorder. I hope this post enlightened you with the truths regarding Bipolar Disorder. It surely did for me.
Bipolar I Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/bipolar-1-disorder#2
Bipolar II Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/bipolar-2-disorder#1
NAMI. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Bipolar-Disorder