Bipolar Disorder is much more complicated than being moody or having mood swings. It is also known as Manic Depression and is known for those two abnormal mood states. This post actually is mostly pulled from that ancient and dusty blog I mentioned, so bear with it. The resources and links posted are current.
Hypomania and Mania are two stages of Bipolar illness where the person may feel really well, have an increase in speech patterns, creativity, productivity, be more charismatic, the need for less sleep, be very social, etc. This sounds great right? Well in can also increase promiscuity, cause massive spending, thoughts that race so fast it is impossible to keep up with them, and, in the case of full blown Mania can cause grandiose thoughts (for instance that you are God or that you can fly) some hallucinations, or paranoia (like that you are being spied on with Fed Ex trucks).
More people are familiar with Depression but I will explain it quickly. Depression involves feeling hopeless and worthless and lost. It can cause people to over sleep or have insomnia. Depression in someone who has Bipolar is very similar to someone with Unipolar (or normal) Depression.
And the most fun is the Mixed State. This is where a person will be very full of energy while also being seriously depressed. This state is more tied with suicide than even the depressive state.
People who have Bipolar Disorder do not necessarily swing from one extreme to the other all of the time, and there are different varieties of Bipolar. There are frequently periods of “normalcy” between episodes. The Varieties of Bipolar are BPI, BPII and cyclothymia. BPI is the “classic” version of Bipolar and involves people who become depressed and full blown Manic. BPII is a version where people suffer from depression a great deal more than people who are BPI, and only rise to the levels of Hypomania. Cyclothymia is where a person may swing between milder depression and milder hypomania.
There are many medications used to treat Bipolar Disorder. One class is mood stabilizers. These medications work like they sound: to stop the highs and lows and keep them stable. Another class is unfortunately named anti-psychotics. The medications are used in conjunction with a mood stabilizer to help to keep the moods level and assist with depressive episodes. They are also given to people with “normal” (technically called unipolar) depression when regular anti-depressants alone don’t work. Anti-Depressants and Anti-Anxiety medications may also cautiously be used in some people by some doctors. Every person ultimately has his or her own unique set of inherited and individual factors including the ability to metabolize medications or metabolize them quickly, sensitivities and allergies, variances in effectiveness based on other factors, acceptable risks due to other health issues, etc. It’s not common to see two people with Bipolar Disorder of even the same type to be on completely different medication regimens. Some people also attempt to treat this disorder with natural remedies with less proven success. The peer-reviewed published research hasn’t caught up with those people yet, although with the natural movement taking hold, I suspect there will be things beginning to show up in the journals soon. For more information about psychiatric medication in general, a very good resource is crazymeds (if your browser gives you some kind of warning about the security certificate for this page having expired, it is safe).
For more detailed information about Bipolar Disorder generally, please check out the following pages that should not warn you about the safety of the site…
If you are looking for books on the subject:
Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families by Francis Frank Mondimore
Bipolar Disorder for Dummies by Candida Fink and Joe Kraynak (I know the title is strange but it is useful for just getting started).
An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison (This is the book that every person who ever gets diagnosed with bipolar disorder gets told they should read. It’s a memoir. It is interesting but I only partially related to it).
Movies and documentaries:
Of Two Minds is a feature length documentary on YouTube that I relate to in a terrifying number of ways. This is a very genuine portrayal of the experience from my perspective.
Limitless with Bradley Cooper is a fictional suspense thriller but it captures mania (portrayed as a brain enhancing drug in this movie), better than anything I’ve seen. Bradley Cooper is the personification of mania in this movie.
Just a couple of things to add:
First, Bipolar Disorder does not generally cause people to become violent. There’s always some sensational news story about some very sick individual who shoots up a gas station. While these people may have a mental illness, and it in fact may be bipolar, they are the very small exception, not the rule. Only 4% of violent crimes in the US are perpetrated by people with a mental illness. The rest are just people committing crimes.
Second, Bipolar Disorder is not something you can “choose” not to have. You can not “decide” not to be manic or depressed. Just like you cannot “decide” not to be diabetic. In both cases there is a medical reason for a person’s body not producing the right amount of a substance. In both cases ignoring the illness and pretending it’s not there can be fatal. The major difference between the two is there is no simple blood test to determine if someone is bipolar. Instead the test is the person’s behavior. Something many people on the outside of the illness think that a person with Bipolar should be able to control.
Third, Bipolar Disorder cannot be “cured.” Like Diabetes, it can be managed for some people and many people can live a productive life with it, but relapses can and do occur.
So, I hope that this provides some information and awareness. Next post will be a simple thing to briefly covet how I got to here, and then I think we will be caught up.