FAQ's about Bipolar and
What’s Bipolar Disorder?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder is treated with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy).” (mayoclinic.org)
Why should we care?
A person with bipolar disorder is more likely to harm or kill themselves.
Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.8% of the U.S. population age 18 and older every year.
Bipolar Disorder can be a contributing factor in job loss, divorce, substance abuse, and suicide. (nami.org)
What are the signs of bipolar disorder?
Manic behavior could include these symptoms:
Acting with a sense of euphoria
Decreased need for sleep
Unusual decision-making from buying sprees to risky behavior.
Depressive behavior could include:
Marked loss of interest or feeling no pleasure in most activities
Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite
Either insomnia or sleeping too much
Either restlessness or slowed behavior
Fatigue or loss of energy
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
Decreased ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
Thinking about, planning or attempting suicide (mayo.clinic)
Is bipolar new?
No, the Greeks observed and described melancholy and mania centuries ago. An interest in psychology surged in the 1850s, European scholars described severe depression and manic excitement as an illness. But they did not agree on what to call it: dual form insanity or circular insanity. Many names have been attached to the disorder: manic-depressive disorder, manic depression or manic-depressive psychosis. The term bipolar disorder or bipolar for short emerged in 1980.
What’s the difference between mood disorder and bipolar?
Mood disorder is a broad term that's used to include all the different types of depression and bipolar disorder.
Mood disorder is the general emotional state that interferes with your ability to function. Sad, empty or irritable (depressed), or you may have periods of depression alternating with being excessively happy (mania).
How many people in the US live with bipolar?
An estimated 2.8% of U.S. adults lived with bipolar disorder in the past year.
Bipolar disorder among adults was similar for males (2.9%) and females (2.8%).
An estimated 4.4% of U.S. adults experience bipolar disorder at some time in their lives. (nimh.nih.gov)
What causes bipolar?
Stress, environmental factors and potentially genes.
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. However, research suggests that there is no single cause. Instead, a combination of factors may contribute to bipolar disorder. (nimh.nih.gov)
Is there a genetic link from one bipolar family member to the next?
Bipolar disorder often runs in families, and research suggests that this is mostly explained by heredity—people with certain genes are more likely to develop bipolar disorder than others. Many genes are involved, and no one gene can cause the disorder.
But genes are not the only factor. Although people with a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder are more likely to develop the disorder themselves, most people with a family history of bipolar disorder will not develop the illness. (NIM-NIH)
Are there different types of bipolar disorder?
Yes, Bipolar is a spectrum disorder, a person will typically be classified as either Bipolar Disorder I, II or Cyclothymia:
Bipolar I Disorder
One manic episode to make a diagnosis, depressive episodes are common, but unnecessary.
Bipolar II Disorder
No manic episodes and one or more hypomanic episode, not full-blown manic episode, and one or more depressive episode
A person dealing with a history of hypomania without major depressive episodes.
What about Mood Disorders?
Bipolar disorder is also considered a mood disorder.
Mood disorders is a broad mental health class used by health professionals to describe all types of depression and bipolar disorders. It is a broad classification where general emotional state or mood is distorted or inconsistent with reality and interferes with your ability to function. sad, empty or irritable (depressed), or you may have periods of depression alternating with being excessively happy (mania). (NIMH-NIH)
What’s the best way to support someone with Bipolar Disorder?
Visit mental health advocacy groups’ websites like NAMI and find a local support group. Go to a group meeting or join your friend or family member at therapy.
Follow International Bipolar Foundation and Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD) to provide a global education platform for open discussion to improve sensitivity about bipolar disorder. (isbd.org/world-bipolar-day)
What’s the biggest barriers to mental health care?
Overcoming the stigma: the notion that a mental health condition could make someone weaker or less intelligent or simply a label that will make their life worse.
No one wants to be diagnosed as bipolar. This stigma bleeds from one's personal identity to their home life, workplace and even interactions with their doctors.
Example: A person carries doubt and shame into a medical exam room for a routine appointment. They decide to share to the healthcare professional that they are unable to sleep. The professional may not fully understand the bipolar comes in many stripes and flavors. The professional is busy and refers the person to a specialist (the waitlist to see the specialist is over 9 weeks). In addition, during the short examination, the person wonders if their insurance will cover the medication they might need and all the while they definitely don’t want to add the mental health label to the medical records that will stick with them forever. (ADA, HUD)
(For social barriers see Liddy's FAQ's below)
How can I help break the stigma of Mental health
Get informed and become involved at the local and state level, such as marches and May’s Mental Health Day.
And, talk about your own experience.
As Much as I Care to Remember's Main Character
Liddy might not always tell the truth, but she is telling it, here.
Did you know you were bipolar when you were young?
Yes, like many others, bipolar disorder develops or starts during late adolescence. Occasionally, bipolar symptoms can appear in children. Although the symptoms come and go, bipolar disorder usually requires lifetime treatment and does not go away on its own (NIMH – NIH)
What bipolars’ stereotypes have you encountered and should be shattered?
Liddy says, "I'd like people to know more about the disorder and stop saying:"
“You are being bipolar” When I am just upset, I am not 'being bipolar.
“You are like Jekyll and Hyde” I do not change emotions in a minute.
"Take your happy pills." Many/most maintenance meds do not make bipolars happy/ high.
“All bipolars are addicts.” Not True.
“Bipolars are irresponsible/ make bad decisions.” Not True.
“All bipolars are unreliable.” Not True
“Are you off your meds?” This could be said out of love and concern, but should be saved for crucial times.
“It’s all in your head.” Not true, it is real to me.
“She’s "on" Lithium.” Lithium is not a sedative. It has a bad wrap, but is one of the best meds for bipolars.
You are a good bipolar” I am not good or bad, bipolar is just one of my qualities.
What would you like your friends to do if you’re “acting” manic?
Talk and Listen.
A person living with bipolar does not want to be called manic every time they are creative, talk a little fast or have extra energy to clean out a closet. Confronting your friend about mania or depression should involve a lot of listening and a few questions. Could include: How are you feeling? Are you sleeping? Do you want me to go with you to your doctor (therapist appointment)?
Do bipolars know right from wrong when manic?
Yes, when a person is in the middle of a manic episode, they might do unusual things, say unconventional things, but they know what is illegal and what is wrong.
Is it important to seek early diagnosis, proper medication and therapy?
It is important to be diagnosed as early as possible. Bipolars have an imbalance of neurotransmitters in their brains (serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine). When one or all of these transmitters are off kilter, the bipolar not only experiences a shift in mood, but they could make unusual decisions everything from staying in bed for days to gambling all night long, or running all night long. The sooner a bipolar seeks treatment they will potentially avoid more emotional or physical injury. According to some researchers, episodes of depression and mania may impose damage to learning and memory systems.
How key is proper medication and therapy?
Finding the best medication that you can tolerate (not upset your stomach for example) and you take according to the directions of your healthcare provider and pharmacist is key to your survival as a functioning bipolar.
What’s a functioning bipolar?
A person who lives with the disease is not owned by the disease. ‘Being bipolar’ is another attribute of who you are. It would be wonderful if the functioning bipolar is not scared to say that they are bipolar to anyone. They openly talk about the condition that they are living with.
Do bipolars have rights (employment to housing to medical)?
Bipolar is covered under American Disability Acts (ADA). The law protects people with disabilities in all job discrimination from hiring to benefits to layoffs. In addition, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can be engaged when someone living with bipolar needs time off to treat or manage their condition. Finally, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers public housing for those who meet income guidelines and have a disability like bipolar disorder. Bipolars have rights!
Are all bipolars the same?
No, there are different classifications. Bipolars are difficult to put in a box. Everyone is unique and has many other facets to their being besides being bipolar.
Bipolar disorder does not have to disrupt a normal life, if medications, sleep and exercise are followed.
What’s Liddy's Recipe to Wellness?
Seek early diagnosis
See your therapist regularly and make plans: goals for therapy, talk about things like how to know your limits, why do you care for others and why do you judge; as well as a regular lab schedule to check your medication levels and thyroid, etc)
Take your meds.
How come Liddy is never depressed, yet she is bipolar?
Liddy is more manic than anything.
There are currently three bipolar diagnoses – 1 and 2 and Cyclothymia. There is a link to the classification list above.