By: Ben Wheatley Eiden
Bipolar Disorder Is Sometimes Referred To As Manic Depression. People Who Are Afflicted Experience Mood Swings, From Depression To Full Manic Episodes Known As Hypomania.
Symptoms include impulsive, excessive risky behavior, intense lows or highs, being more talkative, pleasure seeking, risky sexual encounters, as well as an inflated self esteem
or sense of ability. Those afflicted may experience a decreased need for sleep and have racing thoughts. People affected by the disease are easily distracted.
Some are less extreme than a full manic episode. But other signs associated with the malady are sadness, loss of interest, changes in weight and restlessness. Those suffering from the illness may also struggle with substance abuse.
Approximately half of all patients with bipolar disorder are affected before age 25. Some were seeing symptoms between the ages of 15 and 25, but the disorder can begin at any age. Bipolar disorder now affects 12.3 million people in the United States, and 60 million worldwide.
While there is no cure for the disorder, the symptoms sometimes can be controlled with treatment. The problem is that many times patients does not want to take their medication. “They like the high,” explained a psychiatrist associated with a patient formerly treated at the Veterans Administration (VA) facility in Ann Arbor. This behavior can severely affect family members and friends who interact with the patient.
Belinda, whose husband Raymond (not their real names) was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, said that as long as he took his medications, life went smoothly, but when he didn’t, she never knew what was going to happen, such as when a road incident occurred. He ended up getting into an accident on the interstate, totaling his vehicle, leading to a lengthy hospital stay.
As a result, his drivers’ license was revoked. While at the VA hospital he saw a psychiatrist on a regular basis, both as an inpatient and later as an outpatient. But his driving days were over.
It probably is not a good idea for anyone with bipolar disorder to handle money; it is not unusual for them to go on a spending spree when experiencing a high. Also, when experiencing a high, it probably is not a good idea to go to a public place such as a restaurant, where unpleasant episodes may occur.
On one occasion, Raymond, while experiencing a high, started visiting several other patrons in the restaurant, uninvited, in addition to those in his own party. Persons with bipolar disorder can be very engaging and personable. The people he attended with, Belinda and a sister and brother-in-law, had no control over the situation, and were greatly embarrassed.
Other times he would go into a restaurant by himself and sit for hours making conversation with the hostess and waitresses who were very tolerant but reluctant to see him come in. They would often seat him in a place away from the other guests.
Raymond had lived alone before he met Belinda, and had a buddy who kept him company, helping him cope with his bipolar disorder and encouraging him to take his medicine. A believer, Raymond’s church affiliations and support groups also helped him cope with the bipolar disorder.
Another bipolar patient, Curtis, (not his real name) visited his sister on a regular basis, but manic episodes often caused him to talk non-stop, so that no one else could get in a word edgeways. Other times he would be depressed and sit in his house for a week at a time, talking to no one. Fortunately, he married a nurse, who understood his mood swings.
Researchers have identified two chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that are thought to play a role in bipolar disorder: Dopamine and Serotonin; each having a different function.
DOPAMINE, a chemical messenger in the brain called a neurotransmitter, helps control movement in the body, and is linked to thinking and emotions.
SEROTONIN is a chemical provided by nerve cells in the brain. This chemical, or neurotransmitter, acts as a messenger in the brain which helps control moods.
Bipolar depression can be tough to manage. People with bipolar disorder have normal moods about half the time when they aren’t experiencing symptoms of either manic behavior or depression. But sooner or later everyone with bipolar disorder experiences one or more of the depressive episodes.
THERE ARE SUPPORT GROUPS THAT MAY HELP. THESE INCLUDE:
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) 800-826-3632
- Mental Health America (MHA) 800-969-6642
- National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) www.nami.org 800-950-NAMI (6264)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org 800-273-TALK (8255)
- The Jed Foundation www. jedfoundation.org 212-647-7544