Demi Lovato, former Disney princess and current pop music icon, has gotten some attention in the media recently for disclosing her battle with Bipolar Disorder. There is still significant stigma in society associated with mental health. Demi and other famous persons are actively working to combat it by coming out of the mental health closet and sharing their struggles. Knowledge is power. We are usually afraid of what we don’t understand and along those lines, it is important that we learn more as a society about mental illness. Let’s start with Bipolar Disorder.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar Disorder impacts a significant portion of the population. Symptoms include:
- mood swings between manic and depressed
- each mood typically lasts up to a few weeks at a time
- a manic episode can include elevated mood, irritability, decreased need for sleep, and impulsive behaviors (spending, sex, etc.), among other things
- a depressive episode can consist of depressed mood, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, and a decreased interest in activities you used to enjoy, among other things
The important thing to remember is that, like almost all mental health issues, symptoms are experienced on a spectrum. There is usually a threshold differentiating general everyday problems from something diagnosable. Regardless, no two experiences of a disorder are exactly alike and it is important for you to seek the help of a professional to determine if your symptoms could benefit from treatment.
How Does Bipolar Disorder Affect You?
If you have this disorder, you may often feel out of control emotionally. You may sometimes even describe your mood swings as an out of body experience where you know what is happening but can’t do much to help it. When in a manic state, you may go on spending sprees well beyond your means or engage in promiscuous sex. When depressed, you may find it impossible to get out of bed or find yourself crying for no reason. People sometimes resort to drug abuse or other addictive behaviors to self-medicate or numb the emotional rollercoaster. These momentary times of relief from the pain of Bipolar Disorder are only temporary and eventually the problem comes back even harder. You start needing more and more of the addictive substance/behavior to achieve the numbness until the addiction becomes just as much of a problem as the disorder itself. This constant experience of swinging from one emotional extreme to the other and potential addictive self-medication can make everyday living feel next to impossible.
How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?
It is generally accepted that symptoms of Bipolar Disorder are a result of chemical imbalance in the brain. As a result, medication is the first line of defense. The most important thing is finding the right medication for you. Different medications to treat Bipolar Disorder work differently for everyone. By working in close collaboration with your doctor you can find the one that achieves the most relief from your symptoms.
Therapy can also be helpful to you in learning how to notice when a mood swing is about to or is taking place so that you can manage it. As well, therapy can help you learn coping skills. By putting more tools in your toolbox, you will be better able to manage any residual symptoms not completely covered by your medications.
The overall message here is that knowledge is power. By learning more about Bipolar Disorder and other mental illnesses, you become less embarrassed about your symptoms and struggles. The more comfortable you are in your own skin, the more comfortable you are in asking for help. To see if you may benefit from some talking to a professional about mood swings or Bipolar Disorder, take the test below: