May being the Mental Health Awareness Month, I am doing a two-part post on Bipolar Disorder–a mental illness I have witnessed from close quarters and learned to deal with over the years.
As the name suggests, Bipolar Disorder is an illness that alternates between extreme depression on the one hand, and extreme euphoria on the other.The mood swings, the energy levels and the activity of a patient oscillates between extreme highs and extreme lows that makes leading a normal life immensely difficult.
If left untreated, it can play havoc with a person’s Life, career, relationships and overall health.
The episodes of extreme elation, or manic episodes as they are called, can leave the patient sleepless, hyperactive and extremely positive and outgoing.
The episodes of depression, on the other hand, can leave the patient feeling totally negative, with no energy or enthusiasm about anything in Life. It can also make the patient suicidal.
Bipolar disorder does not have a particular cause.
It could be genetic, in that, it could turn up in a person who has a family member ailing from the illness.
It could happen as a result of chemical imbalances in the brain.
And, it could also emerge as a result of hormonal imbalances, or circumstances, like, unbearable stress or a traumatic incident that could trigger the extreme mood swings.
The mood swings related to Bipolar are very unlike the mood swings others experience every once in a while. While a mentally healthy person can get over his/her moods, patients of Bipolar find it difficult to get a handle on their moods.
Their mood swings are severe and they experience either a euphoria (manic phase), hypomania, or a serious bout of depression during an episode.
The manic phase is when it gets tremendously difficult managing the patient as their energy levels are uncontrollably high, as is their aggression.
They find it difficult to focus on one particular task and keep flitting about from one task to another.
The patient has grandiose plans for his/her life. They think big, as in, planning to buy a huge house, or a costly gadget, a high-end vehicle, in short, anything that exudes extravagance.
Patients in the manic phase often avoid reporting to work or school/college.
They are aggressive, angry, and can lose their temper for the minutest of issues.
They go on a spending spree and (in the words of a Bipolar patient) a Rs 500 note resembles a Rs 5 note, which encourages them to squander it away without a thought. In short, they spend recklessly.
Their confidence levels are at an all-time high, which results in the grand plans and squandering. Their speech is clearly not normal and they speak rapidly and in a loud voice.
They find it difficult to sit still in a place and get excessively restless.
They also find it difficult to sleep and find a mere couple hours of sleep enough.
They also experience hallucinations, and fear that the people around are trying to harm them.
They might display signs of Multiple Personality Disorder and/or schizophrenia while in the manic phase.
Indulgence in drugs, alcohol and smoking is also high in this phase, and any amount of cajoling them to slow down only has a negative effect.
At times, they also experience a high libido, which could lead to promiscuous behaviour.
The depression phase either precedes the manic phase or succeeds it.
The patient in a depressive state finds no meaning in Life.
He spends a lot of time in bed, sleeping away the hours.
No activity excites him and nothing you do can change their mood.
They feel helpless, hopeless, depressed, and despair over everything.
Because of the hopelessness, they worry immensely about every little thing.
Having lost interest in Life, they also find it difficult to eat and, as a result, lose weight and energy.
In the depressive state, too, they find it difficult to attend to their work or studies and prefer staying cooped up in their room. An atmosphere of gloom hangs heavy in their surroundings during this phase.
There is a high chance of suicide in this state if the patient doesn’t receive timely help and treatment.
Although Bipolar Disorder DOES NOT have a cure, all of the above symptoms can be treated with medications, therapy and counselling.
I have witnessed my hubby exhibiting most of the above symptoms when in both the phases–manic and depressive–hence, this post is based on what I have experienced as a care-giver.
In the next part, I will discuss the treatment and care for a Bipolar Disorder patient, which I will be sharing next Friday.
So, do visit Metanoia to know how you can look after your close ones if they are diagnosed with the illness.