Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder, also referred to as a manic-depressive illness. Simply put, it entails unprecedented and severe changes in an individual’s mood, energy levels, activity and routine functioning.
Unlike mood swings which are common, manageable and widely experienced by almost all human beings, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are more intense. The difference between mood swings and bipolarity is based on the enhanced severity of the following conditions in the latter:
- Length of mood patterns.
- Intensity of the emotional condition being experienced.
- Obstruction of ordinary lifestyle and activities by a particular emotional state.
The varying emotional states that occur with Bipolar Disorder are called “mood episodes”. Each mood episode represents a departure from the affected individual’s typical disposition and behaviour. A state wherein the person is overexcited and/or joyful is called a manic episode, while a state of despondence and/or lethargy is known as a depressive episode. Where there are symptoms of both mania and depression, the bout of bipolarity is characterized as a mixed episode.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
There are several kinds of bipolar conditions which have been variously observed across patients of the illness. These include:
- Bipolar I: This is the most severe and dangerous manifestation of the condition whereby either manic or mixed episodes as well as depressive episodes occur at random, almost every day for no less than a week.
- Bipolar II: This condition is four times more common than Bipolar I. It is diagnosed after at least one major depressive episode and some approximation of maniac behaviour is observed, with possible incidence of level mood conditions in between. Bipolar II is far trickier to diagnose, for the symptoms are not as evident as in the latter.
- Cyclothymia: A more mild form of bipolarity, Cyclothymia is characterized by several manic episodes and fewer depressive episodes over the course of two years. Of course, the incidence and severity of episodes may change over time.
- Rapid Cycling: The occurrence of four or more episodes of mania or depression in a 12-month period is known as the Rapid Cycling variety of bipolarity. This condition may be temporary for some people.
- Not Otherwise Specified (NOS): A form of bipolarity whereby no discernible pattern of mood episodes is evidences is called Not Otherwise Specified. For instance, several manic episodes with no depressive alternations or mixed episodes with very rapid shifts, would qualify to be this condition.
Myths and Truths about Bipolar Disorder
It is important to be wary of the misinformation and dubious discourses that exist about bipolar disorder. Various myths and facts regarding the same are mentioned below:
Myth – Bipolarity is a medical disease.
Fact – Even as several neurobiological and genetic factors are associated with the occurrence of bipolar disorder, contemporary academia maintains that its roots are psychological, social and biological.
Myth – The condition only affects one’s mood.
Fact – Bipolar disorder does not impact a person’s emotional state alone, but affects energy levels, concentration, sleep patterns, appetite and sexual drive as well.
Myth – Bipolar people shift between episodes of mania and depression alternatively.
Fact – As is evident from the above, bipolarity has several manifestations with differing patterns of mania and depression. Thus, a person who doesn’t experience extreme and alternating swings between mania and depression, is not necessarily a non-patient. In fact, most bipolar individuals experience more episodes of depression and milder mania.
Myth – Individuals suffering from bipolar disorder cannot lead a normal life.
Fact – With the right treatment, keenly developed coping mechanisms and a strong support system, patients of this illness can lead a normal life, having successful careers and healthy social relationships.
The bottom line is that bipolar disorder is a mental illness which is capable of hampering routine life by causing behavioural and emotional exigencies in affected individuals. Challenging as it is to be living with bipolar tendencies – treatment, therapy and self-help can allow for a normal lifestyle to be resumed.