Mental health authorities estimate that more than 2 million adults have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (sometimes also called manic-depression), an imbalance in the brain causing extreme mood swings from manic highs to agonizing lows. Although a diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be frightening and confusing, it can often be a treatable and manageable condition.
If you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with bipolar illness, the first step in relieving fear and uncertainty is education. The more you know about the disorder, the less control it will exert over you and others who may be affected.
The National Institute of Mental Health, The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and and The National Mental Health Association are just a few of the recognized national organizations providing information, facts and support to anyone who may be directly or indirectly affected by bipolar disorder.
Below are some essential facts about bipolar disorder provided by these organizations that may alleviate some of your concerns and questions.
1. Bipolar disorder affects many people
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), bipolar disorder affects approximately 2.3 million adults, or 1.2 percent of the population, in any given year.
2. Bipolar disorder has many potential causes
There does not appear to be one cause for bipolar disorder. Evidence suggests that many components may come into play, all of which affect the chemical balance of certain parts of the brain. Several studies on the occurrence of bipolar disorder in families demonstrate a genetic disposition toward the illness. Other factors may include extremely traumatic life events, chronic illness, alcoholism, environmental toxins (including mercury) and drug abuse.
3. Bipolar disorder has varied symptoms
The most pronounced symptoms of bipolar disorder are dramatic mood swings consisting of extremely “high” manic episodes to debilitating episodes of depression and then back again with relatively normal moods in between. Behaviors during a manic episode include any of the following: heightened feelings of euphoria, extreme energy, decreased need for sleep, extreme irritability and distractibility, and increased aggression. Depressive episodes can bring about excessive feelings of despair, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, and sometimes thoughts of suicide.
4. Bipolar disorder affects both sexes in children to adults
Manic depression is not selective in who it touches. Women and men are equally affected, as are children and adolescents (although a diagnosis in children and teens is more difficult to determine and a definitive diagnosis should not be made until the child is grown). A majority of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder have a least one family member with the illness. And children of parents with the illness are more likely to develop it themselves.
5. Bipolar disorder has effective treatment modalities
Bipolar disorder is often treated with medications, called mood stabilizers, to assist in controlling fluctuation in moods. The important thing to understand about bipolar disorder is that it is a life-long, recurring illness requiring ongoing care. Psychotherapy is also prescribed in the management of the illness. Psychotherapy assists people to understand their illness and to develop coping skills to help deal with life events and stressors that may trigger manic and depressive episodes.
A diet low in sugar and inflammatory foods (gluten, dairy and eggs), regular exercise and supplementation with a variety of vitamins can also help to calm and stabilize the system.
6. Bipolar disorder has no cure
As of today, there is no known cure for bipolar disorder; however, it can be a treatable and manageable illness. With a close relationship with a mental health professional, a proper diagnosis, and vigilant adherence to the treatment protocol, many individuals with bipolar illness can lead very productive and rewarding lives.
These are just a few of the facts pertaining to bipolar disorder. It is not a simple illness. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, do not hesitate to seek information and help. Obtaining knowledge is one of your first steps in alleviating the uncertainty and anxiety of dealing with such a diagnosis.