Bipolar Disorder can be a very scary thing for people to go through. You can go from being extremely “happy”; to extremely upset within seconds, which is due to the serotonin levels in your brain. Bipolar disorder causes people to have mood swings which most of the time have nothing to do with anything going on in their lives. This disease is exactly that, a disease. People who get it cannot help it, just as people with cancer cannot help what they have received. Another name for bipolar disorder is manic depression, which is a very effective definition of the disease. Bipolar means 2 poles, in this case meaning mania and depression. When you have an increased level of serotonin on your brain, you are said to be hypomanic. When you have a low level of serotonin in your brain, you are depressed state. Bipolar patients have both of these going on at the same time throughout their lives, possibly even many times a day if they are what they call a rapid cycler.People with bipolar disorder may try to commit suicide or do things to harm themselves. Such things may include cutting themselves, drinking, using drugs, most popularly marijuana. People with this disorder, to relieve the symptoms of pain and stress, supposedly use marijuana. Although marijuana does have antidepressant properties, it can cause amotivational syndrome. This occurs when people who use it begin to perform at a very low level, lower then they were before using the drug. The person may feel relief from their symptoms but this may be just an illusion.When bipolar people are in a manic state, they begin to think in a frenzy.All of there muscles will tense up, and their shoulder blades and jaw will begin to ache. Their heartbeat speeds up. Physical activities become effortless and they feel very strong, yet doing simple things like tying their shoes becomes difficult. They begin to feel twitchy and want to move around a lot. People during mania often talk to themselves, or if talking to others, they repeat the same thing over and over. Often times, they over react to things or blow things way out of proportion, and tend to have short tempers. Driving while in a state of mania is one of the most dangerous things for them to do because they forget about the mental pictures of other cars and believe they are the only ones on the road. Even if things are irritating to others, they will continue to do them, such as poking people, interrupting others, or ignoring. The dreams manic people have are so vivid they feel as if they have lived them. Speech often speeds up and may be unintelligible to others. Productivity soars during this time, but they get easily confused if given more than one thing to do. When he or she is hypomanic, they are very good at lyrics and poetry, being able to come up with songs and things very easily. As you can se, many things can happen when you are in a hypomanic state. Although you may be asking yourself, besides the few obvious ones like dangerous driving, what could be so bad about this? The answer to that question is suicide. A little know fact is that surprisingly, more bipolar people commit suicide during hypomania rather than depression because they feel like they are on top of the world and nothing will hurt them, while as depression causes you to mope around.On the other end of the spectrum falls depression. People begin to lose understanding of what they should be doing next. They tend to wander around in a daze. Things begin to stay undone. Even the people he or she is around all the time begin to make them nervous. They can fight it for a while, but when it hits hard, everything becomes a burden to do. It’s a battle that is always lost because they cannot help it. By the time they realize they need help, the depression ahs taken over, and they cannot communicate clearly enough with others to tell them. They often stay inside and never leave and their sleep patters become odd, often staying awake for 20 or more hours. These people become so afraid of others that they disappear and go driving, sometimes for hours. The purpose is to escape and put their body somewhere else that is safe and comfortable to escape the terror. Days are spent with almost completely blank minds. Just enough of them is alive to make sure they eat and act as though others know nothing of the disease.In my surveys, I found the results kind of surprising. Almost exactly half of the 50 people surveyed knew someone who was bipolar, which I found amazing. A good thing about this is that the people who didn’t know anyone who had manic depression said that they would try to calm them down and be a good friend to them. The sad thing is that most of the people who knew someone knew of times they had tried to kill themselves.I chose to write about manic depression because a close friend of mine is bipolar and it is so hard sometimes to deal with him. But I do because I love him, and I know that without me, sometimes he would feel as if no one cared. He started out young doing the typical things that boys do, like drawing bloody pictures and stuff like that.He always thought about killing the person he was mad at as child, even though it was trivial at the time, to him it was important. But in no way is he ‘a crazy psycho that needs to be in an asylum,’ as one of my friends put it. He is a human being and just like any other, he should be treated fairly and not looked down upon. I have realized in the past few years that I’ve known him, most, if not all, of the symptoms he has displayed that I thought were just ‘him’, were really signs of mania and depression. He feels comfortable talking about his disease, so soon after we met, he told me. I was confused at first and wasn’t sure how to handle him. But then I realized that he should be treated the same, I just have to be careful of what I say around him, because bipolar people tend to get their feelings hurt or their nerves set off very easily. Luckily, he was diagnosed at 18, which seems like a lifetime ago for him. He is 21 now, and takes medication to help control the masked killer we call manic depression, which affect 2-3 million people in the U.S. I believe he is on the right track now; all he needs is the right motivation, and people to stand by him.I recently read a book by Danielle Steel, entitled “His Bright Light: The Story Of Nick Traina”, which was about her 19 year old son who was bipolar and killed himself. This has become my favorite book, and I love the way she told the story. What she says in the intro of the book almost brought me to tears because it is how I feel sometimes about my friend. She said: “There is no denying that it is a hard, hard road loving someone with bipolar disease. There are times when you want to scream, days when you think you can’t do it anymore, weeks when you know you haven’t made a difference but only wish you could, moments when you want to turn your back on it. It is their problem, not yours, and yet it becomes yours if you love the person suffering from it.You have no choice. You must stand by them. You are trapped, as surely as the patient is. And you will hate that trap at times; hate what it does to your life, your days, your own sanity. But hate it or not, you are there, and whatever it takes, you have to make the best of it.”Bipolar disorder is something that cannot be cured, but controlled, if in the right environment. I hope if I have taught you anything at all today, it is this: if you know someone who is like this, please, don’t turn your back on them. Stand by them and support them, because this is something that they will have to deal with for the rest of their life.
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Introduction to Depression and Bipolar Disorder
Depression: It’s Not Just in Your Head
Everyone, at various times in life, feels sad. This is normal. Sometimes sadness comes from things that happen in your life: you move to a different city and leave behind friends, you lose your job or a loved one dies. But what’s the difference between “normal” feelings of sadness and the feelings caused by clinical depression?
How to Recognize Depression
Depression is not a character flaw or sign of personal weakness. You can’t make yourself well by trying to “snap out of it” or “lighten up.” And you can’t catch it from someone else, although it can run in families. To understand what depression is, it’s important to recognize the symptoms:
- Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
- Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Irritability, anger, agitation
- Worry, anxiety
- Pessimism, indifference
- Loss of energy, persistent lethargy
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or hopelessness
- Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness
- Inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal
- Excessive consumption of alcohol or use of chemical substances
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
If you or someone you know has thoughts of death or suicide, contact a medical professional, clergy member, loved one or friend immediately.
If you experience five or more of these symptoms for more than two weeks or if any of these symptoms interfere with work or family activities, contact your doctor for a thorough examination. This includes a complete physical exam and a review of your family’s history of illness. Do not try to diagnose yourself. Only a health care professional can determine if you have depression.
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Bipolar Disorder: More Than A Mood Swing
Bipolar disorder is a treatable medical illness marked by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy and behavior. It is also known as manic depression because a person’s mood can alternate between mania and depression. This change in mood or “mood swing” can last for hours, days, weeks or even months.
How to Recognize Mania
Unlike people with clinical (unipolar) depression, most people who have bipolar disorder talk about experiencing the “highs” and “lows” of the illness. The “highs” are periods of mania or intense bursts of energy or euphoria, which include some or all of the following symptoms:
- Increased physical and mental activity and energy
- Heightened mood, exaggerated optimism and self-confidence
- Excessive irritability, aggressive behavior
- Decreased need for sleep without experiencing fatigue
- Grandiose delusions, inflated sense of self-importance
- Racing speech, racing thoughts, flight of ideas
- Impulsiveness, poor judgment, distractibility
- Reckless behavior such as spending sprees, rash business decisions, erratic driving and sexual indiscretions
- In the most severe cases, delusions and hallucinations
Bipolar disorder affects more than two and a half million adult Americans. Like depression and other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder can also have an impact on spouses, family members, friends and people in the workplace. It usually begins in late adolescence (often appearing as depression during teen years) although it can start in early childhood or as late as the 40s and 50s. An equal number of men and women develop this illness and it is found among all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes. The illness tends to run in families and is inherited in many cases.
Mood swings that come with bipolar disorder can be severe, ranging from extremes in energy to deep despair. The severity of the mood swings and the way they disrupt normal activities are what make bipolar mood episodes different from ordinary mood changes.
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Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help. If you or someone you know has a mood disorder, you may be feeling especially vulnerable, and talking to someone about it may be the last thing you want to do. But finding the right treatment is the first step in becoming an active manager of an illness like depression or bipolar disorder. Finding the right treatment starts with finding the right mental health professional.
Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” is an important part of treatment for many people. It can sometimes work alone in cases of mild to moderate depression. A good therapist can help you modify behavioral or emotional patterns that contribute to your illness. People with bipolar disorder and/or chronic depression usually benefit from a combination of medication and talk therapy.
The choice to take medication is entirely yours, but know that many people with mood disorders have significantly improved their lives because they’ve adhered to a treatment plan that includes medication. Though medication does not guarantee all your problems will be solved, the right one can improve your ability to cope with life’s problems and restore your sense of judgment.
DBSA recognizes that dietary supplements and other alternative treatments that are advertised to have a positive effect on depression or bipolar disorder regularly enter the marketplace. DBSA does not endorse or discourage the use of these treatments. However, be aware that alternative treatments may have side effects or interact with prescribed medications, so read labels carefully and discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist before taking them.
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Living with Depression or Bipolar Disorder
As with other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma, people with mood disorders should see themselves as managers of their illness. Depression and bipolar disorder are treatable, but they are not yet curable. For many people, depression and bipolar disorder are chronic illnesses. If severe depressive and/or manic episodes reappear at some point in your life, don’t panic. Your experience with previous episodes puts you one giant step ahead in the process of recognizing symptoms and getting help. By continuing your treatment plan, you can greatly reduce your chances of having symptoms recur.
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The Value of DBSA Support Groups
With a grassroots network of more than 1,000 DBSA support groups, no one with depression or bipolar disorder needs to feel alone or ashamed. DBSA may offer one or more support groups in your community. Each group has a professional advisor and appointed facilitators. Members are people living with depression or bipolar disorder and their loved ones. As an addition to treatment, DBSA support groups:
Can help increase treatment adherence and may help people avoid hospitalization.
Provide a place for mutual acceptance, understanding and self-discovery.
Help people understand that mood disorders do not define who they are.
Give people the opportunity to benefit from the experiences of those who have “been there.”
Take the next step toward wellness for you or someone you love. Contact DBSA to locate the group nearest you. If there is no DBSA support group in your community, DBSA can help you start one.
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If you are having suicidal thoughts, it is important to recognize these thoughts for what they are: expressions of a treatable medical illness. Don’t let embarrassment stand in the way of vital communication with your doctor, family and friends; take immediate action. You can take important first steps to manage these symptoms.
- Tell your mental health professional immediately.
- Tell a trusted family member, friend or other support person.
- Regularly schedule health care appointments.
- Instruct a close supporter to take your credit cards, checkbook, and car keys when suicidal feelings become persistent.
- Make sure guns, other weapons and old medications are not available.
- Keep pictures of your favorite people visible at all times.
- For help in a crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK.
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Develop a Wellness Lifestyle
Keep the following in mind as you discover your own ways to reduce symptoms and maintain wellness:
- Regularly talk to your counselor, doctor or other health care professional.
- Share talking and listening time with a friend.
- Do exercises that help you relax, focus and reduce stress.
- Participate in fun, affirming and creative activities.
- Record your thoughts and feelings in a journal.
- Create a daily planning calendar.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Allow yourself to be exposed to light.
- Improve your diet. Avoid caffeine, sugar and heavily salted foods.
- Change the stimulation in your environment.
- Attend a local DBSA support group regularly.