October 18, 2012

Loving Someone Who's Bipolar

If you have never had someone close to you suffer from Bipolar Disorder, it can be hard to understand what they go through, sometimes on a daily basis.  My son was diagnosed about 2 years ago. . .and living with this disorder hasn't been easy.  As a parent, I find it extremely frustrating when people make comments or statements that he is making a choice regarding some of these behaviors, that when he's going through an "episode" that he is just being a lazy or rebellious teen.   

Even with proper medication, a bipolar person will still cycle through manic and depressive states, sometimes on a very severe and/or frequent basis.  Their anxiety is real.  Their struggles are real.  What should be a common everyday task to most people can be overwhelming and seem impossible to the bipolar individual.   Managing basic daily tasks can feel like climbing Mt. Everest. 

I found this article on bipolar disorder.  It does a great job of outlining what goes on in a bipolar person's life and helps provide an understanding of what its like living with someone who suffers from this disorder.  I hope this provides some insight and just might prompt someone out there to not be so quick to criticize an individual as being "lazy" or "defiant" and instead show some compassion for the bipolar individual and the loved ones trying to help them through their journey. 

Bipolar Disorder:  Symptoms

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe, but it can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.


What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called mood episodes. An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression. This is called a mixed state. People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode.

Extreme changes in energy, activity, sleep, and behavior go along with these changes in mood. It is possible for someone with bipolar disorder to experience a long lasting period of unstable moods rather than discrete episodes of depression or mania.

A person may be having an episode of bipolar disorder if he or she has a number of manic or depressive symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least one or two weeks. Sometimes symptoms are so severe that the person cannot function normally at work, school, or home.

Symptoms of Mania or a Manic Episode

Mood Changes

  • A long period of feeling high, or an overly happy or outgoing mood
  • Extremely irritable mood, agitation, feeling jumpy or wired

Behavioral Changes

  • Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
  • Being easily distracted
  • Increasing goal-directed activities, such as taking on new projects
  • Being restless
  • Sleeping little
  • Having an unrealistic belief in one's abilities
  • Behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable, high-risk behaviors, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments

Symptoms of Depression or a Depressive Episode

Mood Changes

  • A long period of feeling worried or empty
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex

Behavioral Changes

  • Feeling tired or slowed down
  • Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Being restless or irritable
  • Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
  • Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide
One side of the bipolar disorder scale includes severe depression, moderate depression, and mild low mood. Moderate depression may cause less extreme symptoms, and mild low mood is called dysthymia when it is chronic or long term. In the middle of the bipolar scale is normal or balanced mood.

At the other end of the bipolar scale are hypomania and severe mania. Some people with bipolar disorder experience hypomania. During hypomanic episodes, a person may have increased energy and activity levels that are not as severe as typical mania, or he or she may have episodes that last less than a week and do not require emergency care. A person having a hypomanic episode may feel very good, be highly productive, and function well. This person may not feel that anything is wrong even as family and friends recognize the mood swings as possible bipolar disorder. Without proper treatment, however, people with hypomania may develop severe mania or depression.

During a mixed state, symptoms often include agitation, trouble sleeping, major changes in appetite, and suicidal thinking. People in a mixed state may feel very sad or hopeless while feeling extremely energized.  Sometimes, a person with severe episodes of mania or depression has psychotic symptoms too, such as hallucinations or delusions. The psychotic symptoms tend to reflect the person's extreme mood. For example, psychotic symptoms for a person having a manic episode may include believing he or she is famous, has a lot of money, or has special powers. In the same way, a person having a depressive episode may believe he or she is ruined and penniless, or has committed a crime. As a result, people with bipolar disorder who have psychotic symptoms are sometimes wrongly diagnosed as having schizophrenia, another severe mental illness that is linked with hallucinations and delusions.

People with bipolar disorder may also have behavioral problems. They may abuse alcohol or substances, have relationship problems, or perform poorly in school or at work. At first, it's not easy to recognize these problems as signs of a major mental illness.


What illnesses often co-exist with bipolar disorder?

Substance abuse is very common among people with bipolar disorder, but the reasons for this link are unclear. Some people with bipolar disorder may try to treat their symptoms with alcohol or drugs. However, substance abuse may trigger or prolong bipolar symptoms, and the behavioral control problems associated with mania can result in a person drinking too much.

Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social phobia, also co-occur often among people with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder also co-occurs with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which has some symptoms that overlap with bipolar disorder, such as restlessness and being easily distracted.

People with bipolar disorder are also at higher risk for thyroid disease, migraine headaches, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other physical illnesses. These illnesses may cause symptoms of mania or depression. They may also result from treatment for bipolar disorder.

Other illnesses can make it hard to diagnose and treat bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder should monitor their physical and mental health. If a symptom does not get better with treatment, they should tell their doctor.

U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (Reviewed 2012, May 16). Bipolar disorder. Retrieved July 27, 2012, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov

1 comment:

  1. Wow, sorry to hear this! I will keep both Taylor and you in my prayers!


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