“Somewhere between love and hate lies confusion, misunderstanding, and desperate hope.” – Shannon Alder
Bipolar disorder affects over 60 million people worldwide, which is almost the same number as the population of Italy.
World Bipolar Day, or WBD, is celebrated on 30th March every year to spread awareness worldwide about Bipolar disorder, which is an initiative taken by International Society of Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) in conjunction with the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorders and International Bipolar Foundation. The objective of this day is also to eliminate the stigmas and negative stereotypes associated with this disorder and to educate people to improve their sensitivity towards the illness.
Bipolar Disorder is a serious and often misunderstood mental illness that causes drastic shifts in the mood, energy and activity levels of a person. It usually comprises of a manic episode, which can be categorized as a phase of extreme overconfidence and happiness, and sometimes may also include irritability or anger, followed by a depressive episode that can include feelings of sadness, dysphoria, loneliness, and low self-esteem.
Scientists still have not yet discovered a single cause of bipolar disorder. But, currently, they believe several factors might contribute:
- Genetics. The chances of developing bipolar disorder are increased if a child’s parents or siblings have this disorder. But don’t worry, the role of genetics is not absolute and confirmed: A child from a family with a history of bipolar disorder may never develop the disorder because some studies of identical twins have found one twin developing the disorder, the other did not.
- Stress. A stressful event such as a death in the family, a sickness, a difficult relationship, divorces or financial problems can trigger a manic or depressive episode. Thus, a person’s way of handling stress also plays a role in the development of the illness.
- Brain structure and function. Brain scans cannot diagnose bipolar disorder, yet researchers have identified subtle differences in the average size or activation of some brain structures in people with bipolar disorder.
However, it is not always so black and white. Bipolar disorder isn’t limited to just these two extreme phases. It is a spectrum of emotions and a roller coaster ride that meddles with not just the black and white, but also fumbles in the grey.
There are more than 5 types of Bipolar disorders, which include:
- Bipolar I Disorder: When you have a manic or mixed episode that lasts at least a week, or is severe enough that it requires immediate hospitalization. Plus, this is usually accompanied by depressive episodes.
- Bipolar II Disorder: When you experience both depressive episodes and hypo-manic episodes but without any full manic or mixed episodes.
- Bipolar Not Otherwise Specified: When you have symptoms of bipolar disorder that don’t technically meet the criteria for any specific type.
- Cyclothymia: When you have hypomanic and depressive symptoms that don’t quite fit the criteria for mania, hypomania, or depressive episodes (and it lasts on and off for at least two years).
- Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder: where you have four or more episodes in a year. You can find more info from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) here.
It is imperative to understand that people with Bipolar Disorders are not ‘ticking time bombs’ or ‘landmines’ waiting to explode. Similarly, being moody or indecisive isn’t being bipolar and it isn’t something you can just ‘shake off’ through sheer will and determination.
Talking about Bipolar Disorder can be extremely difficult for those who live with it every day, as they struggle with swinging emotions and feelings, trying to find their identity between a storm of conflicting episodes and stigmas that surround this serious illness.
But, again, we salute and celebrate the people who are completely living a normal life along with suffering from a Bipolar Disorder. These are the people who motivate other people to not take stress if diagnosed with one and keep moving on in life, happily and smartly.
How can you contribute? Simple. When a person shares their story with you, listen and be there for them. Several people keep their illness a secret due to fear of judgment and differential treatment in their workplace. Making an effort to understand the disorder and the complexities that come with it, is one way to be there for your loved ones who may be fighting it every day.
You might never know the person right in front of you, in this era full of stress, might be suffering for a Bipolar Disorder but still smiling and talking to you. Imagine how sharing your good thoughts and words might help them 🙂
How are you contributing? Do you have a story? Tell us in the comments below!
We would love to hear 🙂
Malawika is a Mass Communication student from Delhi. She is an astrophile, passionate about Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan, and loves to listen to the Arctic Monkeys, her favorite band. Find her at her happiest while exploring new cities and justifying her love for the color orange!