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Bipolar Disorder, which was formerly called manic depression or manic-depressive Idisorder, is characterized by manic-highs and depressive lows. People with bipolar will experience times when they are full of energy and feeling euphoric, or a manic episode and then shift to a depressive episode, which leads people to feel sad and hopeless. There are different types of Bipolar disorder, two of which are Bipolar and Bipolar II. Bipolar I is characterized by a manic episode that is “preceded or followed by a major depressive episode” (mayoclinic.org), while Bipolar II involves a major depressive episode of at least 2 weeks followed by a hypomanic episode, but not a manic episode. The emotional instability that is seen in individuals with Bipolar Disorder disrupts their daily activities, such as work, school, and personal relationships.
The reason I decided too look into this disorder is because people use it as a descriptor for someone who is moody (“they’re bipolar” or “so and so must have bipolar disorder”). Obviously, this is an incorrect use of this term, and in fact is a common misconception of the disorder. Just because a person tends to be moody or has mood swings does not mean that they have bipolar disorder.
In an effort to understand this disorder better, I looked up common misconceptions of the disorder. On ibpf.org (international bipolar foundation), the first one listed is that Bipolar means mood swings, which the reality is that the mood swings experienced by someone with this disorder are so severe that it “interfered with one or all important aspects of functioning” (ibpf.org). For someone without this disorder, having a mood swing doesn’t make it difficult to function properly in school, work, etc. Another myth is that mania is productive because it is characterized by an increase in activity, but the truth is that as the manic episode progresses, “people tend to become irritable, making dangerous choices leading to disaster in multiple spheres of life- professional, personal or sexual” (ibpf.org).
Something else that I was unaware of when learning about Bipolar is that making a diagnosis can take years. According to a recent study, it can take up to 6 years to get a proper diagnosis (Preidt, 2016).
” ‘While some patients, particularly those who present with psychosis, probably do receive timely treatment, the diagnosis of the early phase of bipolar disorder can be difficult,’ study leader Matthew Large, a professor psychiatry at the University of New South Wales, Australia, said in a school news release. ‘This is because mental health clinicians are sometimes unable to distinguish the depressed phase of bipolar disorder from other types of depression,’ he added” (Preidt, 2016).
The study also mentioned that a diagnosis and treatment plan tends to take longer in younger patients because parents and teachers are chalking up their depressive states to being moody teenagers.
In learning more about Bipolar Disorder, I realize how serious of a condition it is. According to our text, both major depression and bipolar disorder are associated with a higher risk of a suicide which is something I did not realize (Lilienfeld, 2014). Although I knew it wasn’t as simple as someone having “mood swings,” I did not understand the potential for the intensity a person living with this can experience, and was also unaware of the different types of Bipolar disorder that people can suffer from.
Bipolar Disorder (n.d.). From Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/basics/causes/con-20027544
Sandhu, Ravneet (n.d.). 4 Misconceptions about Bipolar that Need to be Smashed. International Bipolar Foundation. Retrieved from http://ibpf.org/blog/4-misconceptions-about-bipolar-need-be-smashed
Preidt, R. (2016). Why Bipolar Disorder Can Take so Long to Diagnose. CBS news. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bipolar-disorder-mental-health-diagnosis/
Lilienfeld, S., Lynn, S.J., Namy, . & Woolf, N (2014). Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, Third Edition. Pearson.
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