What Bipolar Is
iamafighter provides a free, anonymous bipolar support group online. Help is now available 24/7. (Artwork courtesy of @BPDNutjob on the iamafighter network)
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (MIMH), bipolar disorder (which is often, also called “manic-depression illness”) is a disorder of the brain which causes atypical shifts in mood, energy and activity levels, as well as the ability to carry-out otherwise ordinary, everyday tasks. The severity of bipolar symptoms often range in severity, but are notably different than the usual “ups and downs” in the average person’s life.
What Causes Bipolar
Like many classifications and diagnoses in mental health, most scientists acknowledge that there is no one single known cause for bipolar. Instead, similar to many other mental illnesses, a range of potential factors are suspected to act together to bring about bipolar in an individual. These include:
Studies have shown that children with a parent or sibling who has bipolar disorder have an increased likelihood of developing the disorder when compared to those children who do not have a family history of mental illness, particularly bipolar; this according to the NIMH.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, otherwise known as the DBS Alliance, estimates that more than two-thirds of people with bipolar disorder have at least one close relative with the illness or with unipolar major depression.
iamafighter is a free community of over two dozen color-coded support groups. The peach Bipolar support group currently has over 200 members on it.
According to the NIMH, there is significant scientific evidence to show that the structure and functionality of the brain of a person with bipolar disorder operates in a different way than typical. For example, a recent MRI study found that “the brain’s prefrontal cortex in adults with bipolar disorder tends to be smaller and function less well (when) compared to adults who do not have bipolar disorder.” The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain which handles “executive” functions, such as decision-making and problem-solving. However, it is important to note that this region of the brain often matures and develops during adolescence, and so environmental factors, such as abuse and/or drug/alcohol use, may be at-play, as well.
Like many mental illnesses, disorders and abnormalities, the manifestation of bipolar may have circumstantial and environmental roots, as well. Any trauma experienced, mind-altering substance used, or any other personally/subjectively experienced influences constitute as “environmental factors” and have shown to have correlations with the manifestation of bipolar.
How Often Bipolar Occurs
Approximately 2.6% of the U.S. population is affected by bipolar disorder, affecting women and men at equal rates, but manifesting in different ways with women more likely to experience rapid cycling, according to the DBS Alliance.
Why It Matters
In addition to the inherent difficulties that individuals with bipolar face, 50% of people with bipolar abuse drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol, in these cases, are used as means to self-medicate away the symptoms of (often undiagnosed) bipolar disorder.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 1 in 5 persons with bipolar disorder later commit suicide. Proper identification and treatment of the disorder can significantly reduce those odds.
It is important to categorize the symptoms of bipolar according to the two fluctuations in which bipolar manifests- mania and depression:
Extreme, baselessness irritability**
Feelings of euphoria and invincibility**
Trouble sleeping or inability to sleep**
Dangerous/Impulsive behavior, such as driving at 100mph on the highway, engaging in risky sex or going on exorbitant spending sprees**
Lack of interest in life, hobbies & loved ones**
Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness**
Sleeping too much**
Changes in eating habits**
Thoughts of suicide**
** denotes a symptom that also occurs with various substance abuse
(Note: A gender bias exists in the screening process for bipolar disorder: women are far more likely to be misdiagnosed with depression, and men are far more likely to be misdiagnosed with schizophrenia (DBSA, 2000).)
According to the NIMH: When getting a diagnosis, a doctor or health care provider should conduct a physical examination, an interview, and lab tests. Currently, bipolar disorder cannot be identified through a blood test or a brain scan, but these tests can help rule out other factors that may contribute to mood problems, such as a stroke, brain tumor, or thyroid condition. If the problems are not caused by other illnesses, your health care provider may conduct a mental health evaluation or provide a referral to a trained mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, who is experienced in diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder.
Treatment options exist, and it is important to choose the one (or more than one) that best suit you.
The following are recommended treatment methods for bipolar disorder from across the internet:
- Support Groups, such as the iamafighter Bipolar support group- There is strength in numbers and a level of understanding among fellow sufferers that is hard to come by elsewhere. In a support group, whether online or local, people who struggle with bipolar can connect and discuss the trials of the illness, successes in recovery, as well as the best practices that they’ve found for managing the disorder’s symptoms and reclaiming their lives. The iamafighter online Bipolar support group is a free resource (open to ages 13 and up) that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on iamafighter.com, as well as through the iamafighter Apple and Android apps.
- Psychotherapy- When in doubt, see a professional. Psychotherapy, which is simply a scary-sounding phrase for “speaking with a professional in the mental health field, can provide support, education and guidance to a person struggling with bipolar disorder.
- Medication- Medication, when properly prescribed, dispensed and taken can be a very effect tool in managing the symptoms of bipolar. This whole process should be overseen by a trustworthy medical professional.
- Herbal Supplements and Holistic Approaches- According to the NIMH, studies have recently shown that Omega-6 fatty acids, commonly found in cold-pressed flaxseed oil, chia seeds, as well as fish oil, can aid in the reduction of bipolar symptoms and cycling. Yoga and meditation have, also, been shown to noticeably improve the mental health of individuals with varying types and degrees of mental illness.
About the iamafighter Bipolar Online Support Group…
iamafighter is an online support community with over two dozen color-coded support groups, including one for people with Bipolar. With almost 200 members, iamafighter seeks to reduce the stigma, while providing a safe place for people to connect on important topics. iamafighter does NOT sell or provide your personal information, including support group membership, to outside parties.