Mental health issues are very hard to identify. Sometimes, the signs are not easy to identify. At times, there are absolutely no signs, and yet a person is found to be dealing with a mental ailment. Maybe that’s why it becomes hard to understand. One such mental health issue is bipolar disorder.
Usually it is seen that people with bipolar disorder have erratic moods. This sudden switching of moods is one of the first signs that is seen in people suffering from it.
According to psychiatrist Dr Rahul Khemani, there are two moods involved: mania (intense and unrealistic feelings of excitement and euphoria), and depression (feelings of sadness and dejection).
“Unipolar depressive disorder is a condition in which a person experiences depressive episodes, while in bipolar and related disorders, a person experiences both manic and depressive episodes,” he explains.
Most of us know that depression comes with losing interest in things we previously enjoyed; it could show up as a change in sleeping patterns, eating habits, feeling hopeless and helpless.
The other aspect is that of a manic episode. The person may feel euphoric or full of energy. This makes the person highly irritable, and there could also be violent instances, especially when others refuse to go along with your plans and schemes. Your ability to make sound judgment and decisions is also affected.
A person with bipolar disorder experiences both: lows of depression and highs of mania. Some of the people who have gone through this describe their lives as a roller coaster, as they go from one end of the pole to the other.
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The exact causes of bipolar disorder are unknown, but a few theories have been around.
1. Manic episode
Someone who is literally high on mania will have active, powerful emotions and be in search of an outlet. The euphoria and joy is out of proportion with the actual happenings in a person’s life. So, if you found out that you got into NYU (New York University) with a full scholarship, you’d be really, really happy.
But after some time, your level of joy would fade over time. During an episode of mania, that doesn’t happen. However, not everyone with mania will experience happiness. They may become irritable, angry and might make plans that are really far-fetched.
“The person with mania will want constant excitement, involvement, and companionship. He will seek out new friends and randomly call older ones. The person won’t realize that he is being overwhelming, domineering and extreme in their approach. The person is also usually very active. He might move quickly, as though there is not enough time to do everything he wants to do. He may talk very rapidly and loudly. There could be complaints, and verbal outbursts,” suggests Dr Khemani.
He adds, “Flamboyance is also very common, be it through flashy clothes, giving money to strangers, or even getting involved in dangerous activities. The person may be filled with optimism and rarely listen to what the other person is trying to tell them. He may also have a high opinion of himself. He may feel extremely energetic and require little sleep. Even if he misses a night or two of sleep, his energy levels remain high.”
2. Depressive episodes
Sadness is just one symptom of depression. The person could feel sad and dejected. They may describe themselves as empty or feel humiliated all the time. They have an inability to experience any pleasure at all. The person may also go through anxiety, anger or agitation. This can lead to crying spells. The person typically loses the desire to pursue regular activities. They force themselves to get to work, talk with friends, eat meals or have sex. They may become uninterested in life or wish to die.
“Some people may even attempt it. The productivity of a person can go down. They might spend more time alone and may stay in bed for long periods. This person also holds extremely negative views of themselves. They might consider themselves inadequate, undesirable, and inferior,” says Dr Khemani.
Another factor is pessimism (Beck’s triad). These people are usually convinced that nothing will improve, and they feel helpless to change any part of their life. They may feel confused, unable to remember things, and get easily distracted. People with bipolar disorders may complain of headaches, dizzy spells, and general pain. They could also report disturbances in sleep and eating habits.
Bipolar disorder can either be temporary or it can be permanent. It all depends on how soon you identify the signs and seek treatment. So, keep your eyes and ears open for your loved ones.