Bipolar Disorder

bipolar man

There are, of course, the two poles of bipolar disorder, mania and depression.  There are also two concomitant life effects, opposite life effects, on the person with bipolar disorder.  Through his life the person might go through years of big wins, as hypomania and success slide into full mania (until his judgement starts to slip).  But then alternating with these “up” years are other years of struggle, of doing less well.  People with bipolar disorder can become billionaires and yet die poor.  They can be rich and world famous, liked and loved, yet end life by suicide at a young an age.  (As an illustration in literature, do a search for the 1897 poem “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson.  Paul Simon turned it into a song that Simon and Garfunkel recorded.  It’s on their 2nd album, “Sounds of Silence”.)

Articles related to Bipolar Disorder:

Bipolar Disorder is a Common Disorder

At least 1 out of every 100 people have bipolar disorder, and maybe as many as 3 out of every 100.  Doing the math, that adds to 75 million to 225 million people worldwide.  These are not small numbers.

Once It Starts It Lasts a Lifetime

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness.  Mania follows depression and depression comes after mania.  There might or might not be a time of normal mood in between, as the individual swings from one mood extreme to the other.  Typically, the episodes of mania are usually shorter than the depressions.  Maybe a few weeks or months of mania.  Then a few months or years of depression.  But the episodes of mania are times of high energy, extreme emotion chaos.  While the episodes of depression might appear less chaotic they are just as dangerous and, at times, fatal.

The Cause Is Not Known

No clear and single cause for bipolar disorder has been found.  There are risk factors that add up to make the likelihood of a person having bipolar disorder higher.  Family history, for example, and life events.

Bipolar Disorder is a Physical Brain Condition

Bipolar disorder is a physical, medical condition.  It is not a “mental” condition, that is, it is not a condition that can be helped without full-on medical treatment, including medication.  The brain of people with bipolar disorder is different from the brain of a person without bipolar disorder.  Medication helps to “normalize” things.

The Up Pole

Mania is not straightforward.  Mania can be up, energetic, optimistic, self-assured.  Mania can also be irritable, irascible, angry, and energetically hostile.  Some people, when manic, switch between the two.

When manic and feeling good, a person feels too good.  it is hard for most people to understand the concept of feeling too good.  When manic, an individual feels that nothing can go wrong.  Even in really bad situations.  Since nothing can go wrong, they take risks they shouldn’t take.  They have energy surges and are too active.  They might talk non-stop, their thoughts and conversations hopping from one topic to another faster than people around them can keep up, faster than people around them can think.  But if helpful people try to slow them down, manic people can easily get irritable and really, really angry. 

One reason the manic person feels that nothing can go wrong is that they’re overly optimistic.  They can feel super capable or even powerful.  As a result, they might take big risks with money, or with sex, or with relationships.  It can get ugly.

Mild Mania

There is a milder form of mania that people with bipolar disorder can have.  They feel just really good.  They can be highly productive and function well.  The mildly manic individual usually does not think there is anything wrong.  And people around the individual who do not know him might not see anything wrong.  But people who know him well can see the change.  It’s a warning that a full manic episode might be on the way.

The Down Pole

People with bipolar depression are, well, depressed.  An ordinary sad mood is familiar to everyone.  This bipolar depressed mood is not only worse, it’s qualitatively different.  It’s a medical condition that is an extreme form of gloom and pessimism.  They have little energy and don’t do much.  They can’t sleep or sleep too much, are not hungry or eat too much.  Nothing is fun or enjoyable.  They can’t think clearly, can’t concentrate, and are forgetful.  They’re tired and slow, feeling just worried and empty.

 Helpful links:

National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health

National Library of Medicine (United States), Medline Plus

The Mayo Clinic

American Psychiatric Association

National Alliance on Mental Illness