Mental Health Awareness: Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a relatively recent term for what people used to call "manic depression." We are going to take a look at bipolar disorder in this installment of our Mental Health Awareness series. 

Those of us who have bipolar disorder experience intense, debilitating mood swings. We have low and high moods of varying intensity that can last for a brief period of time or for several days (or months, or years). These highs and lows are more than just commonplace, everyday ups and downs. During the highs, or manic times, we can feel exhilarated, energetic, and we may be overly talkative. We may also be more likely to feel irritated or distracted. We may behave recklessly. During the lows, or depressive episodes, we may feel despair or anxiety. We probably have little or no energy. Maybe we sleep too much, or hardly at all. Highs and lows may cycle back and forth over a short or long period of time. 

Bipolar disorder is an episodic illness. We have intense feelings during one of our mood swings. And we are stable when we aren't experiencing a mood swing. But the term “bipolar disorder” doesn't describe a single, clearly delineated condition, but rather a group of related mood disorders. Psychiatrists have identified four different kinds of bipolar disorderopens a new window:

Bipolar Iopens a new window We experience both manic and depressive episodes. The manic episodes can be extremely severe. 
Bipolar IIopens a new window  We experience times of depression, and perhaps some manic times, but not as often or as severe as Bipolar I. Some of us with Bipolar II might not experience a fully manic episode in our lifetimes. 
Cyclothymiaopens a new window  We experience milder lows and highs, off and on at separate times, for at least two years. Also referred to as Cyclothymic Disorder. 
Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specifiedopens a new window  We experience some, but not all, of the symptoms of the other three kinds of bipolar disorder. This makes it difficult for doctors to make a definitive diagnosis. Also referred to as Bipolar NOS.

The differences between these four kinds of bipolar disorder can be subtle and complicated. As a result, some of us have been initially misdiagnosed as having another disorder, such as depressionopens a new window, schizo-affective disorderopens a new window, or ADHDopens a new window. Previous experience has taught us to keep journals of the way we feel so we can track the intensity and duration of our manic and/or depressive episodes. Some of us keep charts or use apps to track our mood changes. Sharing our journal, chart, or app contents with our doctors provides them with more detailed information about our condition, so we can work together to determine a proper course of treatment. It hasn't been quick or easy for us, but it has definitely been worth the time and effort. If you feel that you might be suffering from bipolar disorder, the writers at verywellmind.comopens a new window have made an informative doctor discussion guideopens a new window that could help you discuss your feelings and symptoms when you visit a doctor. Or, if you prefer, try this calendar/chartopens a new window provided by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. With help, bipolar disorder is treatable. We can have full, productive lives.

The International Society for Bipolar Disordersopens a new window will observe World Bipolar Day on March 30, 2019: "The vision of World Bipolar Dayopens a new window is to bring world awareness to bipolar disorders and to eliminate social stigma." 

If you or someone you know has symptoms of bipolar disorder and is in crisis, please contact one of these services as soon as possible:

Please note: This discussion of bipolar disorder is intended for informational purposes and is not meant to take the place of consultation with a physician  or therapist.

If you're interested in reading previous posts in this Mental Health Awarenessopens a new window series, please look at the column to the left of this panel and click on any of the links there.

We have compiled a list of St. Tammany Parish Library resources and external websites that have additional information about bipolar disorders. If you need help with getting a downloadable title from Hooplaopens a new windowCloud Libraryopens a new windowOverDriveopens a new window, or Libbyopens a new window, please contact your nearest St. Tammany Parish Library reference librarianopens a new window.

Bipolar Disorder

"Presents a survival guide for people with bipolar disorder that is filled with tips, tricks and tools . . . by someone who has been through it all and come through stronger for it." The sequel/companion book to Forney's 2012 graphic memoir, 'Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me.'

"filled with pragmatic, valuable information that helps readers figure out where they may be on the disorder spectrum, explains various symptoms of the disorder, provides handy self-diagnostic tests, and offers tips to assist readers in connecting with their physician."

"Zack McDermott, a 26-year-old Brooklyn public defender, woke up one morning convinced he was being filmed, Truman Show-style, as part of an audition for a TV pilot . . . After a manic spree around Manhattan, Zack, who is bipolar, was arrested on a subway platform and admitted to Bellevue Hospital. So begins the story of Zack's freefall into psychosis and his desperate, poignant, often darkly funny struggle to claw his way back to sanity, regain his identity, and rebuild some semblance of a stable life. It's a journey that will take him from New York City back to his Kansas roots and to the one person who might be able to save him, his tough, big-hearted Midwestern mother, nicknamed the Bird, whose fierce and steadfast love is the light in Zack's dark world."

"The author pieces together the story of her absent father's life, beginning with his advancements in isolating the biochemical root of manic depression, just as he began to suffer from it himself, leading to years of institutionalization and confinement."

"A former Olympic athlete and high-end escort reveals her struggles with manic depression, exploring how mental illness both drove her competitively and painfully challenged her personal life." This title is also available as an ebook and a digital audiobook from St. Tammany Parish Library's Hoopla service.

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