From One End to Another: Starting Afraid but Ending Courageous on Living with Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder is a complex disorder. It has different types and is caused by several factors. It seems like an overwhelming problem to deal with, but it is definitely possible to conquer.
The Difference Between Bipolar I and Bipolar II
Bipolar Disorder is hard to conceptualize, especially for someone that has not taken a class in Psychology. Its meaning can be derived from the context of the word bipolar. From the word itself, bipolar essentially means two opposite ends of a pole. People with Bipolar Disorder experience it differently. On the one hand, people with Bipolar I experience manic episodes, a feeling that makes them extremely happy compared to their ordinary happiness, and they may not experience depressive episodes. On the other hand, people with Bipolar II experience hypomanic episodes (less intense than manic episodes), and may definitely experience depressive episodes (Roland, 2016).
Manic Episodes and Hypomanic Episodes
A manic episode can be seen when a person has unusually high energy levels and may be easily irritable. It may last for at least one week, and may be accompanied by the following changes:
Less need for sleep
Speaking faster than usual
Rapid changing of topics when talking
Increased risky behaviors
Such changes must be evident to family and friends. It must also be different from the person’s usual behaviors. Behaviors suggesting a manic episode can disrupt a person’s day-to-day life. Some people having manic episodes also experience psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. Additionally, some people that are experiencing manic episodes may require hospital care for their safety.
A hypomanic episode manifests less severe manic symptoms and does not affect a person’s daily functioning. It may last four days in a row instead of one week. As stated earlier, a person who has Bipolar I Disorder experiences manic episodes, while a person who has Bipolar II Disorder experiences hypomanic episodes and major depressive episodes (American Psychiatric Association, 2021).
Major Depressive Episodes
A major depressive episode can be seen when a person has at least five of these symptoms (including one of the first two symptoms):
Loss of interest in activities that a person usually enjoys
Feeling worthless or guilty
Increase or decrease in sleep
Increase or decrease in appetite
Slowed speech or movement
Frequent thoughts of death and suicide
These symptoms can last for at least two weeks. Major depressive episodes are experienced by people who have Bipolar II Disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2021).
Causes and Risk Factors of Bipolar Disorder
The precise cause of bipolar disorder cannot be pinpointed, but it involves different factors like biological differences, genetics, significant events in one’s life (death of a loved one or other traumatizing events), and drug or alcohol abuse. People who have bipolar disorder may have physical changes in their brains, thus having biological differences from people who do not have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder can be usually seen in people who have a first-degree relative that has bipolar disorder as well, making genetic makeup one of the vital factors in causing bipolar disorder (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
Getting help from a mental health professional is a difficult decision to make, especially when we do not know the specifics of a complex mental health problem such as bipolar disorder. Such decisions can also be influenced by stigma, which makes seeking care from a mental health professional more challenging. The best way to help is to empathize with that person or connect with people who have that condition and seek professional help (Purse, 2004). Having a medical consultation can provide clarity through evaluation. Bipolar disorder may not be curable but it is possible to conquer it and allows a person with bipolar disorder to have a great quality of life.
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American Psychiatric Association. (2021). What Are Bipolar Disorders?. Psychiatry.org. https://psychiatry.org/patients-families/bipolar-disorders/what-are-bipolar-disorders
Mayo Clinic. (2021, February 16). Bipolar Disorder. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355955
Purse, M. (2004, February 25). What Is Bipolar Disorder? Explore key differences between the types. Verywell mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/bipolar-disorder-overview-378810
Roland, J. (2016, April 7). Bipolar 1 Disorder and Bipolar 2 Disorder: What Are the Differences?. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-1-vs-bipolar-2