Bipolar disorder is one of the most misunderstood mental health conditions. This condition affects around 5.7 million adult Americans, and yet almost all of us have some misconceptions about the disorder.

It’s time to sort out what bipolar disorder is and what it is not. By understanding this disorder, we can better understand ourselves or our loved ones with this condition.

What it is (And what it is not)

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depression, is a brain disorder associated with unusual shifts in energy, activity levels, mood, and the capacity to perform day-to-day tasks. The causes of the disorder are unclear, but it is more common among people with a first-degree relative with the disorder. Traumatic events can also trigger the condition.

Contrary to the popular belief, the moods experienced by a bipolar person is drastically different, and more severe, than the mood shifts of someone without the disorder. There are also four basic types of the disorder, each one having its own range and level of mania and depression. Manic episodes are those characterized by extremely elated and energized behavior while depressive episodes are those characterized by, well, depression and hopelessness.

Manic and depressive episodes

Detecting this disorder lies in knowing the symptoms of manic and depressive episodes.

Manic episodes have the following symptoms:

  • Becoming more active than usual
  • Unusually agitated or irritable
  • Thinking they can do many fantastic things at once
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling very “high”
  • Engaging in out-of-character risky behaviors like spending a lot of money or having reckless sex

Depressive episodes are characterized by the following signs:

  • Very little energy
  • Sudden feelings of hopelessness and emptiness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Sudden decrease in energy and activity levels
  • Feelings of tiredness and lethargy
  • Thoughts about death and suicide

Bipolar disorder is a swing between manic and depressive episodes, and sometimes an episode with mixed manifestations of both episodes. If you begin to notice these things in yourself or a loved one, you should consider a psychological evaluation.

How to deal with bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder are not dangerous, and this is something that should be handled with compassion instead of fear. Dealing with extreme moods is not easy for anyone.

The first thing a patient needs to do is to undergo a comprehensive psychological evaluation to get a proper diagnosis. Once diagnosed, the patient should consider the various treatments that will be suggested by the mental health professional.

gdgdd64The quickest way to help patients manage their moods is taking medications. Often, these maintenance medications have to be taken over a continued period to avoid relapse. Also, studies have found that participating in patient-to-patient support group improved compliance to treatments by almost 86%, thus reducing in-patient hospitalization.

When the patient is showing dangerous behaviors, feeling suicidal, or becoming detached from reality (psychotic), the doctor may recommend hospitalization.

Act fast

Mental health is as important as physical health in living a balanced life. If you are noticing symptoms of bipolar disorder in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore it. Often, prompt response avoids tragic consequences of the condition.

Observe the symptoms, talk to the person and get professional help. Bipolar disorder is a difficult condition to handle, and patients need all the support and understanding to get through it.