Living with Bipolar Disorder

Living With Bipolar Disorder

What is it?

Bipolar disorder is an illness of the brain.  It is known for involving extreme highs and lows in not only mood, but also in a person’s energy and behavior.   These highs and lows are more severe than what other people experience.  The highs are known as either mania (which is the most severe), or hypomania (which is less severe).   Mania is affiliated with Bipolar type I.  Hypomania is an aspect of Bipolar II.  These highs alternate with extreme lows of depression. 

These swings between the highs and lows can create dramatic changes in the individual.  With mania or hypomania, a person may experience pressured speech, racing thoughts, disturbed sleep, changes in appetite, risk taking behaviors (such as gambling, acting out sexually, abuse of drugs or alcohol).  Symptoms may also include restlessness, irritability or anger.  The person may feel like they have a motor running rapidly inside of them.  In some cases, a person may experience psychotic symptoms while in a manic state.  These high states can be just as debilitating as bouts of severe depression.

When depressed, the person may find it difficult to get out of bed due to poor energy, to engage in good personal hygiene, may find they are over or under eating, may find it difficult to concentrate, may find themselves overcome with guilt feelings or low self esteem, and in some cases, may even find themselves with thoughts of suicide. 

What causes it?
There is a genetic component to Bipolar disorder.  If you have a sibling or parent with it you are more likely to develop it.   There is much that is not yet known about Bipolar origins.  There seems to be interplay of both environment and genes involved. 

How is it treated?
While there is no cure for Bipolar Disorder, there is much that can be done to manage the symptoms and improve quality of life.   A first step is to see your physician or meet with a psychiatrist for a consultation regarding medication options.  Historically, Lithium was used to treat Bipolar Disorder.  While it is still used today, there are now many other options for your doctor to choose from as well. These included mood stabilizers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and sleep aids.  

What else can be done?
Support – Have or create a good emotional support team around you.  This may include family, friends, and a support group. Your support group can help not only with emotional support, but also be a good place to expand your education about the illness.  Look online for a group in your area. 

Like with management of any kind of depression or anxiety, exercise can be extremely helpful to people with Bipolar Disorder.  Exercise can improve mood, release stress, and improve self esteem. It can also help with weight management which is important as many of the medications can cause weight gain. (That said it is wise to avoid exercise before bed.)

Sleep can be a huge challenge for those with Bipolar Disorder.  Exercise done well before bedtime can help with sleep.  It has also been observed that those with Bipolar Disorder are more sensitive to light with regard to how it affects their sleep.  Therefore, it is wise to be sure that you are sleeping in a dark environment – which can be a challenge with these long, summer days!  Try sleeping with a sleep mask or dark shades on your windows. 

People with Bipolar Disorder are more vulnerable to a manic episode when they are sleep deprived.  While we all require sleep, those with Bipolar can especially benefit from doing all they can to maintain a consistent sleep structure.  Women with Bipolar Disorder are even more likely than men to experience negative outcomes with sleep deprivation.  

Stress Management
Practice reassuring self talk when you are feeling anxious.  For example, say to yourself things like:  “These are just strong feelings – I can get through this”
“Feelings come and go – I won’t always feel like this”
“I’m resilient – I can handle this” 

Find an activity you enjoy and do it!  Focus on things other than your mood or illness.  This is vital! 

Find a therapist you are comfortable with. A therapist can provide a safe environment for you to problem solve and better understand your illness, provide encouragement and help you get positive momentum as you move forward on your wellness journey.  Know there is hope and help.
Call Kay today for your free consultation! 

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