More than just a mood

Image

Bipolar disorder is part of a cluster of disorders classified as ‘mood disorders’. Most people associate high and low mood changes with bipolar disorder. For me (and probably many other people too) bipolar is so much more than just a mood change.

Drive and Energy 
When I am depressed I have NO energy. Seriously. Nothing. Every little thing becomes such a drama. Sometimes I feel I can’t even move. I don’t even have the energy to cry, I just kind of sit there. Waiting for time to pass by.

Image

On the other hand, at the other pole I am like a kid on a sugar high. I need very little sleep, I can’t sit still, I’m impatient with people who can’t keep up with me. I talk and talk and talk and talk. My whole body is fueled with energy…which can be quite annoying sometimes. I have so many projects and ideas. When I’m hypomanic this can be quite useful, I recently completed 10 days of thesis work in under two. But once I cross the threshold to true mania it becomes counterproductive. I have so many ideas that I can’t keep track of them all, I start a project then become bored and leave it. I become extremely annoying. My husband will testify to that 😉

Image

Self esteem:
When I’m depressed I hate myself. I’m ugly, I’m fat, why does anyone bother with me, I’m a waste of space. I dress in tracksuits or anything to hide under. I avoid social activities. On the other hand when I’m hypomanic/manic I feel confident and self possessed and this generally manifests anywhere on the scale between “Damn, I’m good looking!” to “Holy crap! I’m superhuman!”

ImageMystical experiences:
There is this other aspect that individuals with bipolar, particularly bipolar 1 tend to have…and it is often referred to as mystical experiences. Now I personally think that is just a nicer way of saying ‘psychosis’ myself. I mean how much cooler does mystical experiences sound?! Harry Potter anyone?

Image
Anyway I read somewhere that believing yourself to be completely normal is a positive sign for stability. When I was severely depressed I slipped into psychosis and started having paranoid delusions where the police were after me for being a bad mother. When I was manic I thought I was superhuman (because I didn’t need to sleep) and that my dreams predicted future events. I believed myself to be special, have special powers, and people were to pay special attention to me. Egocentric much?! 😉

So there you have it. To me bipolar is so much more than just a mood change. It’s almost a personality change. From self loathing to self loving. Failure to fabulous. Miserable to majestic.

And somewhere in between there is the normal, average, non-wizarding me too.

What are your experiences of bipolar disorder? Do you feel like a different person during episodes? I’d love to hear! 🙂

What the Dickens is Bipolar Disorder?!

Bipolar disorder is a universal mental illness. It doesn’t discriminate. People of all ages, nationalities and from all walks of life can experience bipolar. Perhaps this is due to the genetic component of the disorder. Scientists have identified several genes, including the Dysbindin, Neuregulin and G72  genes which when damaged contribute to Bipolar disorder. As such, bipolar tends to run in families, although episodes can be triggered by significant stressors, and in women, childbirth. It is estimated that about 1.1% of the population suffer from bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder are 50 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. That is huge. The suicide rate for the average population is around 0.01%, in the Bipolar population it is around 13%. What’s more, nearly half of individuals with Bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at least once. Extreme depression and psychosis resulting from lack of treatment are the usual cause for suicide. IF YOU FEEL SUICIDAL PLEASE REACH OUT FOR HELP BY CALLING YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY NUMBER OR PRESENTING AT A HOSPITAL EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT!

A bipolar depression is nothing less of horrific. Unlike Major Depression, often there is no apparent cause for bipolar depression. A bipolar depression can persist for months and may become so severe that psychosis results. Traditional anti-depressants used alone generally have little effect, and can even trigger manic episodes. Unfortunately, because many individuals affected by bipolar seek help during depression rather than mania (which may be enjoyable), they are often misdiagnosed with Major Depression and treated accordingly. Individuals who present with mania may be misdiagnosed with Schizophrenia. Consequently bipolar is one of the most difficult mental illnesses to correctly diagnose.

Symptoms of mania can include pressured speech (or talking REALLY fast), racing thoughts, needing less sleep and not feeling tired, grandiose beliefs (for example, I started to believe that I was superior to everyone else because I didn’t need sleep to function but they did), and general euphoria. People may become impulsive (e.g. spending lots of money, quitting their job) and promiscuous.  But there is a dark side to mania; during a manic episode people can quickly turn irritable and even aggressive. They may experience hallucinations and delusions.

Sometimes individuals experience mania and depression at the same time, for example, a deep depression fueled with energy. This is termed a ‘mixed state’ and is one of the most dangerous psychological states to be in.

Bipolar is generally shuffled into three types: Bipolar Type I, Bipolar Type II and Cyclothymia.

Bipolar Type I is often referred to as the more ‘severe’ disorder in that individuals in that people’s  high’s tend to be higher, and they are more more likely to experience psychosis and be hospitalised.

In Bipolar Type II the high’s are less severe and are termed hypomania. While the mood, cognitions and energy is still elevated, there is no psychosis, and usually little need for hospitalisation. However, depression can be crippling in those who experience Bipolar II, and affected individuals are more likely to rapid cycle between episodes.

Cyclothymia (or ‘Bipolar Lite’ as Stephen Fry once described it), is a milder of form bipolar where individuals experience mood swings from mild depression to emotional highs chronically over many years.