If you are a parent whose son or daughter has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder this is for you. Don’t despair. It’s still possible to have a fulfilling life. This is part two in a series I am doing on mental illness. My information is from The National Alliance on Mental Illness, nami.org Refer to my last blog on March 19th for a further introduction to this topic.
Bipolar Disorder is also known as manic depression. It is a mood disorder. It affects nearly 6 million adults in the U.S. and is characterized by extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. People who are bipolar experience alternating episodes of mania (severe highs), depression (severe lows), and mixed states which contain elements of both high and low experiences. These episodes may last for days, weeks, or even months, and are often separated by periods of fairly normal moods. This is a chronic condition with recurring episodes that often begin in adolescence or early adulthood. If your child has been diagnosed with this disorder, remember this – it doesn’t mean they’re sentenced to a life of misery. Good treatment is available from many professionals who are continually understanding more all the time about this disorder.
Manic phase – Hyperactivity, anger, impaired judgement, increased spending or sex drive, aggressive behavior, grandiose notions, delusions, and exaggerated feelings of productivity and self-confidence. Loss of control, disorganization, extreme irritability, and eventual inability to function can occur. Manic “highs” are often described as one’s best feeling ever, so people rarely seek treatment during manic episodes.
Depressive phase – Loss of capacity for pleasure, profound sadness, irritability, sleep changes (insomnia), decreased appetite and concentration, low self-esteem, and thoughts of suicide.
Scientific evidence suggests bipolar disorder may be the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Research has also shown evidence of a genetic predisposition to the illness. So it’s hereditary, but not always passed from one generation to the next. (My mother was bipolar, but I’m not.) Sometimes life events such as a serious loss, chronic illness, or financial problems can trigger an episode in some individuals with a predisposition to the illness.
Most people living with bipolar disorder (80-90%) can achieve recovery with a treatment plan designed to meet their unique needs. (How encouraging!) Maintenance treatment with a mood stabilizer is known to reduce significantly the number and severity of episodes. Becoming educated about the illness and learning coping skills are essential to help manage stress that can trigger an episode. The effectiveness of treatment depends on the severity of the illness, how long the individual has been bipolar, how well they respond to medications and how engaged they are in their treatment and recovery.
Although bipolar disorder is a chronic illness, it is highly treatable, and treatment options are continually improving the outlook for people who have it. With accurate diagnosis, effective medication, attention to health and wellness, and peer and family support, most people living with bipolar can obtain relief from their symptoms and live satisfying and meaningful lives. That’s great news.
Authors of the helpful book Facing Bipolar, say people should not let bipolar define them. They are much more than their disorder. The same is true for anyone who has any other brain disorder. This book does a great job of explaining bipolar, helping individuals understand what it means for their lives and how they can take care of themselves. The four most important things they can do to maintain their mental health are:
- Creating a Structured life
- Managing Stress
- Getting good Sleep
- Learning to Self-monitor
Facing Bipolar, Russ Federman and J. Anderson Thomson
An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison (the author is one of the leading authorities and she herself is bipolar; this is her story)
A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic-Depressive Illness, Patty Duke and Gloria Hochman
Be comforted by this Bible verse:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubles and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)”