Understanding Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar is a mood disorder that causes extreme mood swings that range from emotional highs, called mania or hypomania, to emotional lows, or depression. Mood swings may occur multiple times per year or hardly at all. Some individuals with the disorder may rarely experience ‘normal’ moods.
It is estimated that around one in 50 Australians develops this illness, which affects men and women equally. Most of those affected are aged in their 20s when first diagnosed.
During particularly severe episodes of either mania or depression, a person suffering with Bipolar Disorder may experience psychosis. Psychosis is the term for a state of detachment from reality, which may be either temporary or prolonged.
Bipolar psychosis is characterised by two types of symptoms:
- Hallucinations: experiencing visions and sounds that don’t exist
- Delusions: strong attachment to incorrect but extremely compelling beliefs
What are the Effects of Bipolar Disorder?
The effects of Bipolar Disorder symptoms on a person’s life can range from minor disturbances to major disruption. This depends on whether the person receives an accurate diagnosis, including identification of any co-occurring disorders. For example, there is a very high rate of substance abuse or dependence co-occurring with bipolar disorder.
The effects of bipolar disorder may include:
- Damaged relationships
- Poor job or school performance
- Legal or financial consequences from impulsive decisions
- Medical side effects from prolonged abuse of drugs, alcohol or prescriptions
- Repetitive self-mutilation or other self-harming behaviours
- Suicide, in extreme cases
The length of the manic and depressive episodes also takes a toll on the family, friends and co-workers of those who suffer with Bipolar Disorder. Weeks of unpredictable behaviour by a person with manic depression make it difficult to rely on the sufferer to fulfil obligations, and often times loved ones struggle to maintain a sense of security.
" Bipolar Disorder can be a great teacher. Its a challenge, but it can set you up to be able to do almost anything in life" - Carrie Fisher
Important things to know before getting treatment for bipolar disorder include:
- There are specially trained mental health professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists who can help you with Bipolar Disorder
- You need a thorough check from a health professional before treatment is prescribed
- Specially prescribed medication is the most effective way to treat and manage Bipolar Disorder
- Psychological and lifestyle therapies can be helpful additions to your treatment
- Treatment needs to be specially tailored to each person as everyone with Bipolar Disorder experiences it differently
- It’s best to work in partnership with your psychiatrist, doctor and family. Clear understanding of the treatment goals will help you manage your condition and stay on track
- Your treatment should also consider your lifestyle, employment, social support network, and any stressors which may be impacting your recovery
- Many people who have Bipolar Disorder have been able to seek help and live active, fulfilling lives.
It's important not to blame yourself for your condition. Bipolar Disorder is a physical illness, not a sign of personal weakness. It's like diabetes, heart disease, or any other health condition. Nobody knows what causes Bipolar Disorder, but for many people it is a very manageable condition.
"Having bipolar disorder does not mean you are broken, it means you are strong and brave for battling your mind every single day" - HealthPlace.com
The important thing is to focus on the future. Living with Bipolar Disorder can be tough. But don't let it hijack your life. Instead, take action and regain control of your health. With dedication and the help of your health care providers, you can feel better again.
If you know someone with Bipolar Disorder or a mental illness and needs support, contact Mentis Assist on 100 MENTIS (1300 636 847) or visit our website www.mentisassist.org.au