How many of you are of the notion that having bipolar disorder means the person is excited one moment and the next is depressed or the person has mood swings that are on and off? Well, you are not alone, I too thought that way. One of the things that contributed to this mentality was the series “Empire”. Luscious’s mother was bipolar and it seemed like she was happy one moment then all of a sudden she wanted to kill her son.
We might think mental illnesses are not common in Nigeria; therefore we don’t have a problem. However, the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Yaba, Lagos, has estimated that 21million Nigerians live with mental health disorders.
There are about 1.5million cases of bipolar disorder per year in Nigeria. People are unaware of this fact; neither do they have proper information concerning this mental illness, therefore the need to be enlightened about such.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
According to the National Health Service (NHS), UK,
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another.
It presents itself mostly in the teen years, between the ages of 15 and 19 years but rarely develops in people above the 40 years. The extreme shifts seen in this illness are known as mood episodes. They are of two major forms; depressive episode and manic episode.
With depression, the person feels very low and lethargic. During an episode of depression, the following is usually present;
- persistent feelings of sadness and feelings of excessive or inappropriate guilt and hopelessness
- loss of interest in activities that formerly would interest the individual and inability to think/concentrate
- irritability(especially in children) or anger
- change in sleeping pattern – the individual either sleeps too much or does not sleep enough
- change in appetite which may lead to either weight loss or gain
- feelings of worthlessness which usually leads to thoughts of death or suicide
Mania presents with feeling very high and overactive. There are forms that are less severe and it is referred to as hypomania. During a manic or hypomanic episode, the person exhibits the following behaviors;
- Increased activity, energy or agitation – the person is usually hyperactive and pumped, like they can conquer the world. Sometimes, they believe they even believe they have super powers and that they are on a mission
- Speaking in a rapid, uninterruptible manner – they usually talk fast, sometimes you just can’t keep track of what they are saying
- Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
- due to their hyperactive brain, they are usually distracted and have a short attention span
- decreased need for sleep
- increased goal-oriented activities
- poor decision making – during a manic episode, people with bipolar disorder usually do not make good decisions. They usually do reckless things such as going on a buying spree, having unprotected sex and so on
Also read: What is Depression?
There are situations where individuals present with both depressive and manic episodes simultaneously. This is known as mixed affective episodes. For example, they may have an exaggerated sense of being and still have feelings of excessive guilt at the same time.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are four types of bipolar disorders and they are:
- Bipolar I disorder – To be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, you should have had at least one manic episode that lasts at least 7 days that may be followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes which lasts at least 2 weeks.
- Bipolar II disorder – You’ve had at least one major depressive episode and hypomanic episodes, but never had a full blown manic episode.
- Cyclothymic disorder – there’s at least 2 years (or 1 year in children and teenagers) of many periods of hypomania symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms (usually not a major depression).
- Other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorders – this is defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the categories listed above.
To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the symptoms have to be so severe that it affects normal life functions.
What causes Bipolar Disorder?
There are no known causes of bipolar disorder but there are factors that are known to increase the risk of bipolar disorder. They are;
- Brain structure and function
- Genetics – it is speculated that people with certain genes are more likely to develop bipolar disorder than others
- Family history – children that have family history of bipolar disorder are much more likely to develop the disorder
Living with Bipolar Disorder and Treatment
Living with bipolar disorder does not mean the end of living life. It can be tough for persons with the illness and for their loved ones too. Though not curable, bipolar disorder can be managed and treated. There are treatment options available that can help you or your loved one enjoy life to the fullest.
First of all, it is important that you see a therapist or psychiatrist if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above. They will help diagnose the illness correctly and recommend certain medications you should take. These would include medications to help with the episodes, such as mood stabilizers.
Also, speaking with your therapist can help you deal with the depressive and manic episodes. Your therapist can show you ways to manage the illness and improve your relationship with others.
Lastly, be involved in activities that give you a sense of achievement. Exercise also, eat balanced foods and get more sleep. Also avoid activities that tend to stress you as it can trigger an episode.
If for any reason you feel depressed and want to commit suicide, please call the following helplines and someone will attend to you.
+234 806 210 6493
+234 809 210 6493
In case you are looking for a mental health institution to see a psychiatrist, you can try Nigeria’s top 10 psychiatric hospitals and mental health institutions
What do you know about bipolar disorder?
Did you know some of the facts here?
If you are willing to share a personal experience concerning bipolar disorder, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org