Bipolar: 10 startling things you need to know

I’m not a mental health professional. I’m The Moody Mom. A patient who has bipolar II. I read a lot about mental illnesses. I’ve learned so much through my own experiences. With so many stigmas and misconceptions out there, I started this blog partially to share current facts, theories and research. Today the topic is bipolar disorder.

Doctors don’t completely understand the causes of bipolar. It’s symptoms include having the elated highs of mania to the lows of major depression, along with various mood states between. People with bipolar vacillate from one extreme to the other. These extremes in mood are called “episodes”. Or as I like to call them, “temporary insanity”.

Bipolar is classified as a mood disorder which is a category of illnesses including: major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, persistent depressive disorder, cyclothymia and SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

Moody Mom comment: I personally do not say “I am bipolar”. I say “I have bipolar”. Because bipolar doesn’t define me. You wouldn’t say “I am cancer” would you?

More than 10 million Americans have bipolar disorder. It affects men and women equally, as well as all races, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic classes.

The bipolar suicide rate is 60 times higher than that of the general public and one in five people with bipolar disorder commits suicide. It is a deadly disease, which should be taken very seriously.

Moody Mom comment: it used to be called “manic depression” but nowadays most people say “bipolar disorder”

200,000 people with bipolar disorder are homeless in the US.

69% of bipolar patients are mis-diagnosed at least 3.5 times.

Bipolar disorder is the 4th-highest reason for disability.

Moody Mom comment: when someone says something like “she’s so bipolar!” and they aren’t referring to a person who actually has the disorder, it is really annoying to those of us who have it. Just saying.

There are four types of bipolar :

  • Bipolar I- having episodes that swing from depression to mania.
  • Bipolar II- having hypomanic episodes, which are elevated mood but not full-blown mania, and depression episodes.
  • Rapid cycling – having four or more episodes of mania or depression in one year. In severe cases, episodes can occur as frequently as daily.
  • Mixed episodes – having symptoms of both mania and depression simultaneously or in very rapid sequence. This type has the highest suicide rate.

Moody Mom comment: mania is often misunderstood. It means an extremely elevated mood that can feel good (going on wild spending sprees, hyper sexuality, partying all night, night after night) or it could feel bad (extreme agitation, violent behavior, psychosis). One severe manic episode could literally ruin your life.

There is no cure for bipolar but there are many treatment protocols including medication, therapy, and some experimental treatments. Once a person is diagnosed, it can take years for their doctor to discover what is just the right combination of meds at the right doses. Each patient is different.

Moody Mom comment: the medical community uses the terms “disorder”, “illness” and “disease” interchangeably. There really is no difference in the words’ meanings.

People with bipolar are often stigmatized, mistreated and cast out. Treatments can be ineffective, expensive and require tremendous self-discipline and extreme lifestyle changes. Medications can cause terrible side effects. As I like to say, bipolar doesn’t mean crazy or incapable! People can lead happy, successful lives. Others cannot or will not. We’re all different. And we deserve respect.