World Bipolar Day

Are you, or someone you know, affected by Bipolar Disorder? A survey by the World Health Organization states that Bipolar Disorder is the 6th leading case of disability in the world with nearly 6 million Americans affected. March 30th marks World Bipolar Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness and erasing the stigma surrounding this disorder. In honor of the occasion, The Collective is weighing in on this global disorder to support education and proper treatment.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

In order to treat Bipolar Disorder, it is vital to understand it. According to the American Psychological Association, Bipolar Disorder is “a serious mental illness in which common emotions become intensely and often unpredictably magnified”. Also known as  manic-depressive illness, Bipolar Disorder is a condition that causes abnormal swings in energy, mood and impacts one’s daily functioning. In light of increasing public awareness, several well-known figures have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder from Vincent Van Gogh, diagnosed posthumously, to celebrities including Kanye West and Demi Lovato.

The two most common types of Bipolar Disorder, Bipolar I and Bipolar II, involve changes in mood from extremely “up” and elated, known as manic episodes, to very “down” and hopeless, known as depressive episodes. Bipolar I disorder is characterized by severe and lasting manic episodes along with depressive episodes, while Bipolar II is characterized by less severe and shortermood episodes. Symptoms of manic episodes include increased energy, feeling ecstatic or “wired”, feeling extremely irritable, becoming agitated, risk-taking, trouble sleeping and noticing racing thoughts. Symptoms of depressive episodes include feeling empty and hopeless, fatigue, trouble concentrating, low motivation, forgetfulness and, in the extreme, suicidal ideation.

What are the best methods of treatment?

While there is no cure for Bipolar Disorder, affected individuals can successfully manage their symptoms with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. The Collective’s own Clinical Advisor Dr. Monisha Vasa states, “The estimated global lifetime prevalence of Bipolar I and Bipolar II disorders is estimated to be about 1.2 %.  While the incidence seems low, bipolar spectrum disorders are responsible for a great deal of disability and suffering, due to the early age of onset, and the fact that the disorder persists across the lifetime.  However, with appropriate treatment and monitoring, individuals with bipolar disorder can lead meaningful and engaged lives.  The Mental Health Collective believes in an integrated treatment plan consistent of medications and psychotherapy, alongside exercise, healthy nutrition, yoga, mindfulness and meditation practices, and journaling.  The goal of such a treatment approach is supporting patients in living a life that is aligned with their core values”.

In terms of medications, common categories that may be prescribed for symptom maintenance include mood stabilizers to treat manic episodes, antidepressants to treat depressive episodes and antipsychotics, which can be used in both manic and depressive episodes. Additionally, psychotherapy, or counseling including cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy, provides valuable strategies for managing symptoms. Additionally, the American Psychological Association finds that consistent routines may ease bipolar disorders by maintaining a balanced circadian rhythm with regular sleeping patterns and daily routines.

How do I support someone with Bipolar Disorder
If you are unsure how to help a loved one suffering from Bipolar Disorder, the best place to start is by listening without judgment. The International Bipolar Foundation suggests offering to help with simple tasks, encouraging your loved ones to get out of the house, inviting them to social outings, and understanding when they may need time alone. Additionally, you can offer to attend a support group with them if they are apprehensive. Reassure them that their disorder does not define them. Support their treatment plan, and educate yourself about bipolar disorder in order to better care for them. Know what to do in an emergency, and above all, be patient and compassionate.

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– C. Fogarty 

Photo By: Martin Reisch