Bipolar Disorder: What It Is and Why We Need to Talk About It
News around mental health is flooded with facts, figures and opinions about depression and anxiety. But, we rarely see discussions around bipolar disorder. Once or twice a year, the subject will come up and even make headlines when a celebrity talks about their own experiences. In recent years, celebrities like Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez and Carrie Fisher all shared their own stories about bipolar disorder. But, after a while, the headlines fade, and we forget all about this common mental health issue.
To put it in perspective, 6 in 100 people will suffer from a generalised anxiety disorder in any given week in the UK. 2 in 100 people will suffer from bipolar disorder in their lifetime. It’s not as common as depression or anxiety, but it still affects a vast amount of the population – so why aren’t we talking about it more?
People tend to avoid talking about bipolar disorder because they don’t understand it completely. We need to help more people learn about this mental health issue if we are to see more acceptance and understanding. Please keep reading to learn more about bipolar disorder, what it is and how therapy can help those suffering in silence.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects your mood, which can swing from one extreme to the other. It used to be known as manic depression, as people with bipolar disorder have episodes of depression where they feel very low and lethargic. They also suffer from episodes of mania, where they feel very high and overactive. What makes bipolar disorder different from typical mood swings, is that each extreme episode can last for several weeks or longer at a time.
However, bipolar isn’t wholly straightforward as there are many different types and subcategories on the spectrum. Recent research even suggests that as many as 5% of us are on the bipolar spectrum. Most agree that there are three broad classifications:
- Bipolar I, where the sufferer experiences mania (at least one episode, lasting longer than a week) and periods of depression (though not always).
- Bipolar II, where the highs are less extreme. Instead of full-blown mania, the sufferer gets hypomania which are periods of elevated mood which are less severe than bipolar I but can still be debilitating. The lows, however, are just as extreme.
- Cyclothymia, where you have depressive and hypomanic episodes, but the symptoms are milder.
Bipolar disorder can often exist alongside other mental health conditions like anxiety disorder, personality disorder and ADHD. With different types of bipolar disorder, there’s no surprise that people find this mental health condition confusing and avoid talking about it. Hopefully, this will have helped you understand what bipolar disorder is and how it profoundly affects a person’s mood.
The Impact of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder can have a significant effect on one’s life, making even the smallest tasks difficult to complete. Symptoms can affect the physical, emotional and social functioning of an individual and can seriously reduce their quality of life. Bipolar disorder causes significant psychosocial morbidity as it frequently impacts a person’s relationship with family members, friends and colleagues.
When you have bipolar disorder, you may have periods of ‘normal’ mood between episodes of mania and depression. How long each episode lasts varies from person to persons. Some sufferers may experience:
- Rapid cycling: where a person with bipolar disorder repeatedly goes from high to low without experiencing a ‘normal’ period in between.
- Mixed state: where a person with bipolar disorder experiences symptoms of depression and mania together, for example, overactivity with a depressed mood.
The extreme nature of the disorder means that your life can be significantly affected. It can be hard to stay in a job and put a strain on your romantic and platonic relationships. There is also an increased risk of suicide. During episodes of mania and depression, a person who has bipolar disorder may experience strange sensations, such as seeing, hearing or smelling things which are not there. They can also believe things that seem to be irrational to other people, both symptoms known as psychosis or a psychotic episode.
Therapy for Bipolar Disorder
If you have bipolar disorder, as diagnosed by a GP, therapy could help you understand this mental health illness more. Psychological treatment, like therapy, can help you deal with the episodes of depression and mania. A therapist, like myself, can provide you with advice on how to overcome symptoms of depression and lessen the impact of this episode on your life.
I can also support your relationships, helping you improve any which have been impacted as a result of bipolar disorder. Family therapy is excellent for helping the whole family understand what you are going through, advising you on how you can work together to improve your mental health.
Education is vital for improvement, so learning about how bipolar impacts your life and changes the way you think and feel can help you recognise when you are suffering from an episode. By understanding how bipolar disorder affects your behaviour, you can identify the difference between your symptoms and your real self. Therapy can help you with this process and support you with expert advice for overcoming symptoms which affect your emotions, thoughts and behaviour.
Please take a look at my website to learn more about my services as a therapist and how I can support your mental health journey. With experience helping people facing a wide range of mental health issues, my expertise and compassion allow me to approach each client with understanding and determination. Please get in contact with me today to learn how I can help you take the first step to a brighter, happier future.