What do you really need to know about bipolar disorder? World Bipolar Day is observed annually on March 30 and reminds us that stigma is a reality for people with bipolar disorder; it hinders their ability to achieve wellness. We want to bring the world population information about bipolar disorders that will educate and improve sensitivity toward the mental health condition.
French researchers in 2012 reported that fewer than 70% of the general population could name specific characteristics of bipolar disorder and most identified the media as their main source of information (which is probably not a good thing). There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to have bipolar disorder. Even though symptoms can vary from person to person, there are certain characteristic behaviors and expressions that mark this condition.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by opposite states: mania and depression. Mania is a period of time when an individual experiences increased energy, motivation, and social activity; decreased attention span; indecisiveness; insomnia; and (sometimes) engagement in risky behavior. Depression, on the other hand, is a period of time when an individual experiences decreased energy and motivation; feelings of sadness, emptiness, and worthlessness; social isolation; significant weight loss/gain, and insomnia. Having this disorder can consist of experiencing one episode at a time or a mixed state of both. Some individuals affected by bipolar disorder may transition rapidly from one to the other and some have longer periods of time between episodes. For some, the states may be incredibly extreme, for others, generally mild. Bipolar disorder is a complicated condition!
Bipolar disorder affects approximately 27 millions people worldwide. Celebrities that have self-disclosed having this mental health condition include: Demi Lovato (singer), Russell Brand (comedian), Carrie Fisher (actress, Star Wars), Amy Winehouse (singer), Vincent Van Gogh (painter), and Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister). Personally, I am also affected by this disorder and share my recovery story during the Stand Together trainings.
There are a few myths we want to point out, too:
–Bipolar moods aren’t equally split.
-Treatments take time to work and usually include a combination of medication and therapy, not just one or the other.
–Not everyone with bipolar disorder is the same.
-How individuals affected by bipolar disorder react and respond to situations varies greatly.
Bipolar disorder is not something to be taken lightly; it’s not something to joke about and minimize by using it inappropriately (ie slang: She’s so bipolar!, etc.). It is a serious mental health condition with sometimes severe disruptions in daily function and can include suicidal ideations and behaviors. If you or someone you know is displaying signs of this condition, be sure to talk to an adult you trust or reach out to a mental health professional.
(Special thanks to Gabe Howard’s article, “What I Wish the World Knew about Bipolar [Disorder]” (BP Hope, Spring 2016). Reference the DSM-IV for symptoms and further description. Also, check out www.facebook.com/worldbipolarday for more info.)