What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is one of the most misunderstood medical diseases there is. Many people today allude to it as simply being “moody”, up and down. Unfortunately it is much more complex and harder to understand than that. So what if you suspect you might have this disease yourself? Here are a few indicators but in all cases see a qualified doctor to confirm.
The official definition of bipolar from the official Merck Medical Manual is “…episodes of depression alternate with episodes of mania or a less severe form of mania called hypomania. Mania is characterized by excessive physical activity and feelings of elation that are greatly out of proportion to the situation.”
What many people do not realize is that bipolar (1 and 2) are disease conditions that are genetic and with a person since birth. Whilst not physically always apparent they are as severe as diabetes, cancer or heart disease. You see the person with bipolar often takes undue risks, is more prone to be promiscuous in certain mood states and is far more prone to suicide throughout their life than the average person.
Let’s look into a few aspects of bipolar in general that might help you self-assess if you have the disease.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
#1. Two Faces
Whilst you are up a lot of the time, the other side is a very sad, melancholy you. Both of you exist, they are very different mood states. You may well mask the right-hand side of you a lot. It is common for bipolar people to do this. In fact many are often the life and soul of the party, the most gregarious even!
#2. Sudden Mood Swings
You find yourself suddenly slumping in mood, from being a natural high or just normal to suddenly feeling really blah. I don’t mean blue, I mean you feel black, like there is nothing to keep you going in life!
#3. Impulsive Shopping
You find yourself going on excessive retail spending sprees. I am talking of spending like hundreds or a thousand dollars at a time impulsively. This may be a sign of mania. Be aware too, even if you were feeling down before or even depressed, this would be called a “mixed state” where you get one mood state occurring within another more prevalent mood state.
When you get home after the elation of buying all these items, you think “What was I thinking”? You are shocked at how much you spent. Then you might go and say you can’t go out and therefore deprive yourself of the social contact that would possibly lift your depression.
#4. Angry & Irritable
You get suddenly irritable or angry with people and they react to this, feeling you have over-reacted a bit.
#6. Dangerous Activities
When in states of alcohol impairment you might do dangerous things like climb walls, go on the back of motorbikes when you are normally a risk-phobic person.
#7. Out-of-the-World Statements
In a manic state you may tell all your friends you are going to be a movie star one day! You are 35, have never acted, have no desire and are a computer geek who hates people normally or at least socializing. This is something very out of character and these are things to watch for.
#8. Speech Changes
Ask close friends and family, not work colleagues whether you seem a bit odd. Whether you talk especially fast or slow. Usually bipolar people will talk fast, sometimes supersonically so like a Tokyo bullet train;-).
Alternatively it may be like getting blood out of a stone when they are on the other end, chronically and deeply depressed. You can almost see the person thinking more slowly. People will notice all of this in you.
Normally timid when it comes to fights you may find yourself confronting people more and getting into some awkward situations and near fights. If you are normally a pacifist or non-fighter this is a definite sign something is going on inside that head of yours and I don’t mean thinking!
#10. Zero Concentration
You find it hard to concentrate. This will usually be when you experience a manic episode. You will be jumping all over the place from project to project. People will find it very hard to keep up with you and may get impatient or even angry with you.
So now you have a few definite indicators you might have bipolar, I say might since this is not a condition to be taken lightly. Having it will mean a whole new lifestyle and a self-monitoring that will continue throughout your life even if you still manage to accomplish a lot. Many bipolar people do.
Bipolar Disorder – A Boon
You will be amazed how many past politicians globally, how many major health officials ironically, how many bankers, how many scientists, how many mums and dads and top A students have this disease. Of course many famous actors, musicians, writers and marketing/advertisers have bipolar.
Sometimes it is the creativity, the quick thinking mind, that perpetually thinks outside the box that gives rise to much innovation in our society. Without out the world thinking, this would be a pretty boring, mundane place.
But they somehow manage. You see bipolar people are often above average intelligence, are very driven and passionate and often original thinkers. They don’t see things the way others do and this at times can give them a real entrepreneurial and business advantage!
They also develop a lot of empathy since they are intelligent to eventually understand themselves and their limitations but also somehow gain a greater understanding of their mind in general.
How To Treat Bipolar Disorder?
The next step if you think you may be bipolar is go to your doctor or even straight to a mental health specialist. They have tests to determine your situation and also will ask you all sorts of questions relating to your life history.
When it comes to treatment and coping with symptoms, these must be prescribed by a doctor, a psychologist and in more serious cases, a qualified psychiatrist. There is no quick fix, a lot boils down to acceptance. However you can still enjoy your life but its about going at a more reasonable pace, avoiding the things that can trigger mood changes.
Diet becomes more important as does getting lots of sleep and rest, a minimum of 7-9 hours a night seems optimal and of course medication and regular visits to one or more medical specialists who will work with you over time. There is hope and whilst it can never be removed like cancer or diabetes, you can live a life with it.
It won’t be normal but that non-normal can give you an extraordinary experience of life, different shades, textures that others will never experience… if you let it:-)
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