Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Into My Broken Mind: Bipolar Disorder

     My heartbeat increases. I'm burning up. I feel cold sweat running down my forehead, then a crawling sensation underneath my skin as it slowly begins to tighten. All in a matter of seconds. I can't stop it - it takes over me the same way those big dark clouds overpower the clear blue sky, marking the arrival of a raging storm... My muscles twitch and tighten as I try to tame the beast inside of me... I cry... then I feel a rush of blood through my head, a heatwave... and I'm gone. Just like that. Nothing but darkness. My body still works and so is my mind... just not quite right. Clarity comes with echoes and a sudden sense of relief. I can remember where and who I am, and I'm ok again... but I don't know for how long. I'm scared of myself. 
Uncertainty is a terrible thing... especially when battling against yourself.

      I knew there was something "wrong" with me since I was a child. Of course back then I thought that what I saw and, therefore, learned at home was the way to deal with things, but I always had this out-of-place feeling. I'm not going to get into many details in this post except for the fact I've been diagnosed with a few mental disorders, including Bipolar Disorder. 

If only it were that easy... 
Good note to self, nonetheless.

Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental illness that includes serious episodes of mania and depression. The disease causes drastic changes in the "ups and downs" of temperament, from periods of extreme depression and hopelessness, to periods of normal temperament between these changes.

At least 2 million Americans suffer from Bipolar Disorder.

For those who are afflicted with the disease, it is extremely disturbing. Like other serious illnesses, Bipolar Disorder is also difficult for spouses, family members, friends and even coworkers. Everyone who relates to the person who has Bipolar Disorder may have to deal with serious behavioral problems (such as out-of-control spending) and the permanent consequences of these behaviors.

Alas, my insurance doesn't cover reckless spending.

Bipolar Disorder typically begins in adolescence or during early adulthood and continues throughout life. It is often not recognized as a disease and people who have the disease may suffer unnecessarily for years or even decades.

Bipolar Disorder has been diagnosed in children less than 12 years of age, although it is not common during this stage of childhood. It can be confused with Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder, so a careful diagnosis is necessary.

Although Bipolar Disorder can be debilitating, it is also one of the most treatable mental illnesses. The combination of medicine and psychotherapy helps most people with this disease to return to a joyful and rewarding life.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Some commercial entities promote Brain SPECT Imaging, arguing it provides graphic evidence that
Bipolar Disorder is a biological problem and can be diagnosed at the physical level. Courtesy of bipolar-lives.com

Although a genetic linkage specific to Bipolar Disorder has not been determined, studies show that 80 to 90 percent of people suffering from this disease have relatives with some form of depression. It is also possible that people can inherit the tendency to develop the disease, which can then be caused by environmental factors.
Other research suggests that the disease may be caused by a biochemical imbalance which disrupts the person's mood. This imbalance may be due to an irregular production of hormones or a problem with certain neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain that act as messengers to brain neurons.

What are the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Courtesy of NewLifeOutlook.com

Bipolar Disorder is often difficult to recognize and diagnose. One of the reasons is due to hypomania, which is an early sign of the disorder. Hypomania can cause the person to have a high energy level, real thoughts or ideas of greatness, and impulsivity or disturbing and alarming behavior. These symptoms may feel like a good thing for the person, which can lead one to deny that there is a problem. Another reason for the lack of recognition is that Bipolar Disorder may appear as symptoms of other illnesses or may occur with other problems such as substance abuse, irregular behavior at school or problems at the workplace.

Symptoms of mania
Symptoms of mania, which can last up to three months if left untreated, include:
  • Increased energy/activity, restlessness, fast thoughts and fast talking
  • Denial that there is a problem
  • Excessively "high" or euphoric feelings - the person feels "on top of the world" and nothing, including bad news or tragic events, can change that "happiness"
  • Extreme irritability and easy distraction
  • Reduced need for sleep - the person can last for days without sleep, or feel unwell.
  • Unrealistic beliefs in having certain abilities and powers - the person may experience feelings of exaggerated confidence and optimism without foundation. This can also lead to overly ambitious work plans and the belief that nothing can stop you from reaching those goals.
  • Lack of judgment that is out of character - the person can make bad decisions which can lead to false involvement in activities, meetings and goals like driving a car without knowing where it is going, uncontrollable expenses and bad business ventures.
  • A continuous behavior that is different from the usual behavior of other people - the person may be seen and/or act different from what he or she has done previously. The person may become a collector of several items or become indifferent to personal care. He or she may become obsessive in writing or experiencing illusions.
  • Unusual sexual compulsion
  • Drug abuse, particularly marijuana, cocaine, alcohol and sleeping pills
  • Disruptive or aggressive behavior

Symptoms of depression

Some people experience periods of mood and normal behavior after a manic stage. However, the depressive stage will eventually appear. Symptoms of depression include:
  • Persistent periods of sadness, anxiety or loneliness
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, depreciation, or impotence
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities, including sex
  • Decrease in energy, a feeling of fatigue or being more "slow"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Loss of appetite or weight, or weight gain
  • Chronic pain or other persistent body symptoms which are not caused by physical illnesses
  • Thoughts about death or suicide - including suicide attempts

Something to think about

Anyone suffering from Bipolar Disorder should be in psychiatric care, whether it be inpatient or outpatient treatment or a combination of both. Encouraging and supporting friends and family in recognizing the problem and seeking help are the main keys to recovery.

However, if the person is in the middle of an episode, he or she may refuse to receive help. In this situation, it may be necessary to have the person hospitalized for his or her own protection so that he or she can receive much-needed treatment, particularly if the person is considering suicide.
Most people with Bipolar Disorder can be helped with medicine. Lithium is effective in controlling mania; Carbamazepine and valproate (mood stabilizers and anticonvulsants) are also some of the medicines that are used. Antidepressants such as Zoloft, sometimes in combination with an atypical anti-psychotic such as Zyprexa (Olanzapine), can help with the bouts of depression. Furthermore, in some cases, benzodiazepines, diphenhydramines and even thyroid medicine may also help.

Perspective - Wonka nails it again!
Courtesy of National Citizen Service, UK

It is often suggested that people with Bipolar Disorder should also receive counseling, education and support from a psychotherapist. A therapist can help the person deal with personal relationships, maintain a healthy self-image, and ensure that the person complies with their treatment. Psychotherapy can also help the person deal with the side effects of the medications.

Family support is not only be a crucial part of the treatment process, but also helps diminish the social stigma that this illness conveys. Friends and family members can join a support group to better understand the illness so they can continue to offer encouragement and support to their loved ones.

Thanks for reading,

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