Bipolar disorder, what is it?
Bipolar disorder can be characterized as being a cyclic pattern of mood changes that are mainly marked by depression and mania. Depression is the low mood phase when you’re feeling overwhelmed by life’s challenges, and everything seems to be dark. You may be experiencing very little energy, whereas mania on the other hand is the high energy phase which is experienced as a state of breathless euphoria. The highs of mania, as well as the lows of depression, are both significantly stronger than just feeling happy or sad for a while and then going back to a normal, or more stable state.
There are several types of bipolar disorder
- Bipolar I disorder: involves encountering at least one manic episode that may be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. In some cases, the mania episode could prompt an episode of psychosis.
- Bipolar II disorder: involves encountering at least one hypomanic episode and at least one major depressive episode, but it doesn’t involve a manic episode.
- Cyclothymic disorder: involves encountering hypomania episodes and depressive episodes that aren’t as severe as major depressive episodes.
- Other types: involve bipolar or other related disorders that are originally induced by drugs or alcohol, or are caused by certain medical conditions.
One pole or the other
The term “bipolar” literally means “two poles”, which refers to mania and depression each being on one end of a mood spectrum. People who have this disorder experience repeating episodes of opposite poles of mania and depression. Contrary to popular belief, some people with bipolar disorder aren’t always experiencing either a depressive or a manic episode. There are periods when they are in a more stable state. Some people may also experience this disorder in a much more visible and intense way than others. This means that certain people will have very remarkable and striking episodes of both mania and depression, whereas others will have symptoms that are much less noticeable and more subtle. Those who have symptoms that are of moderate-intensity are likely to get misdiagnosed.
How quick are the shifts in mood?
Another misconception about bipolar disorder is that people who have it change their mood, their opinion, or their decisions every two seconds, which isn’t true. With bipolar disorder, the shifts that take place in a person’s mood are very significant, but they usually last for quite a while. An episode can last for weeks or even months. However, there are times when a person with bipolar disorder may experience symptoms of depression and mania at the same time, which is known as a mixed state. During a mixed state, there will be symptoms of both mood states, but one of them will dominate over the other. An example of a manic episode with depressive features would be performing a certain task or activity like writing a book, and perusing it until it’s finished, while also displaying emotions of sadness such as crying. On the other hand, an example of a depressive episode with manic features would be feeling extremely guilty and having very low self-esteem, while also having a lot of energy and feeling hyperactive.
A misunderstood disorder
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions that exist around bipolar disorder, the first being that this disorder is just a fancier way of saying that someone has mood swings. Everyone experiences mood swings, which is normal, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is eligible for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Yes, bipolar is a mood disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, but it also affects a person’s activity and energy levels, and it is far more severe and intense than just regular mood swings.
The healing process
If you or someone you love can relate to this disorder and you are struggling to cope with these symptoms, know that you are not alone and that there are constructive ways to deal what you’re going through. The process of healing can sometimes be scary and frustrating, especially if you have been misdiagnosed with another mood disorder in the past and you were not given an efficient or effective treatment that helped you get better. It’s not easy to live with bipolar disorder if you don’t know how to manage your symptoms and adjust to them properly, but luckily, a combination of medication and therapy can help you get better. This is why it is very important for you to take care of your well-being by allowing yourself to receive the help and support that you need. With the right support, bipolar disorder is a disorder that you can treat and deal with, and you can still have a very functioning and productive life if you learn how to cope with your symptoms properly.