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Bipolar disorder

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH
JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

In life, there are times when you can't help but feel sad due to ongoing events such as the loss of a loved one, investment or perhaps a relationship. Other times, life is simply a ray of sunshine. It is normal for our moods to swing back and forth, but this is slightly different with people suffering from bipolar disorder.

How then do we tell the normal mood swings apart from bipolar disorder? Read along with me.

Bipolar

Bipolar was given this name thanks to the different extreme reactions of individuals who suffer from it. They become extremely sad or overly excited when they are having an episode. It's like two poles apart.  In between these periods, they act normally. You may begin to worry if that friend of yours is suffering from this condition or perhaps yourself. You may change your thought afterwards.

Bipolar is a mood disorder that can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behaviour and the ability to think clearly. It is a mental illness characterized by two extreme mood swing; mania and depression.

Mania

Mania as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is excitement manifested by mental and physical hyperactivity, disorganization of behaviour, and elevation of mood or simply an excessive or unreasonable enthusiasm.

During this phase, individuals become overly excited for no reasons. Their positive energy increases. It is at this period when they are confident to take risks they would've normally rejected. They become creative and believe they are destined for greatness. This might sound great because of the high-self esteem. But time has made it known to us that an excessive amount of everything is bad. Sometimes, they even feel like supernatural beings. They sleep little and go all out in whatever activity they are engaged in. They can end up making poor choices when they are in a full manic phase. An example is investing all their properties(money) into a business without thinking about the consequences.

Detecting a manic episode might not be straightforward. The best way to notice is to compare the individual's normal behaviour with the current behaviour. Some things to look for in this episode are:

· The pressure to talk loud and fast: Simply, the pace at which they talk changes. You realize that something isn't right. Some people speak very fast but once you realize that this individual who chooses his words carefully begins to rant about his speech, it should help you to decide.

·  Hallucinations or Paranoia: They begin to see or hear things that are not real. This is a serious symptom of the manic stage and a psychiatrist should be quickly informed.

· Multitasking: This is often one of the aims of an individual who wants to get better in life. It maximizes time and increases productivity. Yet, this good behaviour is a symptom of individuals in manic episodes. They need to make use of that extra energy they feel within. They become engaged in so many things at a time. This sounds great except that they may end up causing damage to themselves or others.

· Decreased sleep: They feel euphoric and engaged in numerous activities. The need to sleep reduces as they feel on top of the world.

· An increase in risky behaviours: Individuals may feel very ambitious and embark on dangerous adventures. Some may invest all their monies in a business, others may gamble theirs. Some may get tattoos and so on. Can you think of more?

· Hypersexuality: There is an increased demand for sex. They may want to go online to watch pornographies and behave sexually to urge others to sleep with them.

Mania is just one phase of mood swings. The second phase is depression. Depression is common to many individuals. Depression in bipolar is different from other depressive disorders. This is because, in bipolar, there are two moods involved. Sufferers shift from one mood to another. The shift does not follow a particular pattern.

Remember, that they can feel normal. Sometimes, you may notice the symptoms as they show. It is good to see a psychiatrist early to avoid a major episode.

Depression

Depression can cause you to feel worthless. All the confidence and self-esteem vanishes. Imagine feeling overly excited during a period and switching to this mood? Depression will keep you from being yourself and make it hard for you to try and do what you wish. Things to look out for include:

· Having a tough time getting out of bed.

· Having little or no energy.

· Worrying about everything.

· Eating too much or too little.

· Sleeping too much or too little.

· Lack of focus.

· Feeling hopeless and discouraged.

· Having difficulty making decisions.

· Having suicidal thoughts.

It may be observed that these are almost exact opposite or poles of the manic episode. It is worthy to mention that, individuals may have some and not all of those symptoms in each episode. The mood swing does not happen from moment to moment. An individual may experience an episode for a week or more, sometimes even months. There are types of this disorder depending on the duration and intensity of each episode.

Types of bipolar disorder

1. Bipolar 1

An individual will experience at least one major manic episode which may or may not be followed by a major depressive episode. The manic episode may be so severe that, they will need hospitalization.

2. Bipolar 2

Bipolar 2 disorder involves a major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks and at least one hypomanic episode (a period that’s less severe than a full-blown manic episode).

Bipolar 2 is sometimes misdiagnosed as depression, as depressive symptoms may be the major symptom at the time the person seeks medical attention. When there are no manic episodes to suggest bipolar disorder, the depressive symptoms become the focus. Individuals who present with this type usually do not require hospitalization.

3. Cyclothymia

Individuals have mood swings but they are not as severe as the other two. Nevertheless, it is important as symptoms may last for 2 years or more in adults and a year in children.

Causes

The cause of bipolar is not known but most individuals who have relatives with this condition are more likely to obtain it. Trauma or a stressful life event has been linked to bipolar. Lastly, substance abuse can increase an individual's risk of experiencing these phases.

Treatment

Untreated, the manic phase can last as long as 3 months. About 10% to 20% of people with bipolar disorder develop what is known as rapid cycling, with more than four episodes of mania and depression a year. The chance that there will be future attacks rises with each new episode.

An individual in the manic phase may not realize their action. Hence, people around such people should contact a medical officer quickly. A full evaluation will be made by a psychologist. The individual will be taught how to manage the phase. Most often than not, they need support groups or therapy sessions to get them through it. Medications such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants and sleep medications will be given if necessary.

Bipolar can be very confusing. It becomes difficult knowing yourself. How much happiness is too much? They say, it is okay to be sad sometimes but in bipolar, individuals become confused even when it is normal to be sad. The right thing to do is to seek out help. "Everybody needs someone", they say. Reach out to a friend. It might surprise you the affection you will receive. Bipolar is a very treatable condition. You are not crazy, you just need help just like anyone!

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

A young lady who is excited to influence the society and world with the knowledge she has acquired.