Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that has gained massive levels of notoriety over the past years.
Many people recognize the name and may even know someone living with the illness. Typically, increased awareness of a mental disorder tends to add more clarity and understanding about the condition and reduces the stigma surrounding it.
Unfortunately, with bipolar disorder, that is not always the case. There are still many misconceptions and misunderstandings about what bipolar disorder is and how people with bipolar disorder behave.
To gain understanding on the issue, it’s time to look past the myths to find the bipolar disorder facts.
- Bipolar Is Marked by Periods of Hypomania...
When people imagine someone with bipolar disorder, they likely picture someone in the midst of a manic episode.
During a manic episode, an individual usually:
- Feels very happy and very energetic
- A decreased need for sleep
- Act on impulsives, like spending money
- Engage in risky behaviors
Some people will have hypomanic episodes that are less intense and marked by quick rate of speech and distractibility. Manic episodes can last about a week with hypomanic episodes lasting about four days.
- ...And Marked by Periods of Depression
The other side of the mania is the depression. This is why bipolar disorder commonly used to be called manic depression. People with bipolar disorder will commonly spend much more of their time being depressed than manic.
A depressive episode will be marked by:
- Feeling sad or irritable
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Having less interested in things
- Less energy and concentration
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
These symptoms need to last for two weeks to qualify as a depressive episode, but can usually last much longer.
- There Is No Simple Test for Bipolar Disorder
It would be much simpler if you could take a simple blood test, MRI, or written exam to determine if you meet criteria for bipolar disorder, sadly this is not the case.
The only way you can receive a bipolar disorder diagnosis is from a trained mental health professional like a psychiatrist or therapist.
The mental health professional will interview you to gain information regarding your history and current symptoms to compare your responses to the criteria created by the American Psychiatric Association. Sometimes a bipolar disorder may take years to reach for certain individuals as each case is different.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to avoid diagnosing yourself or allowing friends and family members to do it for you. Unless they have an advanced education in mental health, it is best to leave the diagnosing to the professionals.
- Bipolar Is Varied By Person
Bipolar disorder comes in several varieties based on the level of mania endorsed.
Bipolar I is marked by full manic episodes and bipolar II is characterized by hypomanic episodes with depressive episodes accompanying each.
Beyond that, nine bipolar specifiers describe the condition in more detail.
These include types of:
- Bipolar disorder with rapid cycling
- Bipolar psychosis features
- Peripartum onset
- Seasonal pattern
These variations of bipolar disorder illustrate each diagnosis presents itself much differently from person to person depending on the specifier. It also shows that the disorder can be influenced by a range of bodily changes.
- "Rapid Cycling" Isn't so Rapid
There is misunderstanding that “rapid cycling” bipolar disorder means moods are constantly fluctuating between mania and depression with numerous distinct episodes occurring in a day, and this is not the case.
Because hypomanic or manic episodes need at least four days and depressive episodes need at least two weeks to qualify, multiple episodes in one day are not possible.
People typically have periods of highs and lows during a day regardless of bipolar disorder. The point is, rapid cycling only means that you have four or more total episodes during a year.
- Treatment Takes Patience and Time for It to Work
Prescribed medication is highly effective, but it may take a bit of trial and error to arrive at the best medication or combination of medications.
Since bipolar disorder is so multifaceted and a person’s individual chemistry is so complex, medications that work for one person may not work for the other. Your physician will make adjustments before finding the best option for managing your bipolar.
- Men and Women Are Equally Diagnosed
Bipolar does not discriminate by sex. Although it appears men are diagnosed with bipolar disorder at higher rates than women, it is not entirely true. In fact, men only slightly outnumber women by a ratio of 1:1 for a bipolar diagnosis.
- The Strong Genetic Relationship of Bipolar Disorder
Even though bipolar disorder doesn’t discriminate based on sex, it does target people based on family history.
The hereditary relationship of having a close family member with bipolar I or bipolar II disorder makes you more likely to have the condition yourself. Depending on the association, the connection can become stronger and weaker. Essentially, if you have a parent with bipolar it will be more impactful than a distant cousin with the illness.
- Symptoms Can Show at Any Age
The average age that people will experience their first manic, hypomanic, or depressive episode is 18. It is possible for people to have an onset of symptoms in their 60s or later.
What does this mean? It is possible for bipolar disorder to present itself in children under the age of 18. Teenagers are prone to strong mood changes, irritability, and changes in sleep habits, but this does not prove that they have bipolar disorder.
It is still important to remember to allow a bipolar disorder diagnosis under the care of a mental health professional.
- Someone with Bipolar Disorder Is 15 times More Likely to Attempt Suicide than Someone without It
This is an alarming sad stat, but it is true.
Individuals with bipolar are more likely to attempt suicide at least once in their life and people who spend more time being depressed during the year and have a recent suicide attempt are more likely to attempt or complete suicide.
We hope this fact will motivate people with bipolar disorder to seek the treatment they need and deserve or bring understanding to people who misunderstand bipolar disorder to help their loved ones with the condition.
NewLifeOutlook aims to empower people living with chronic mental and physical health conditions, encouraging them to embrace a positive outlook despite unfortunate circumstances.
Our articles are full of practical advice from people who have firsthand experience of bipolar disorder, and as a result truly understand what our readers are going through, and our community members are welcoming, understanding and supportive.