The extreme highs and lows of bipolar disorder can hurt your job and school performance, damage your relationships, and disrupt your daily life. But you're not powerless when it comes to mania and depression.
Understanding the signs and symptoms and seeking professional help are the first steps to feeling better, but it's also important to surround yourself with people you can count on, make healthy lifestyle choices, and monitor your moods. With good coping skills and a solid support system, you can live fully and productively and keep the symptoms of bipolar disorder in check.
Bipolar disorder (once known as manic depression or manic-depressive disorder) causes serious shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior—from the highs of mania on one extreme, to the lows of depression on the other. More than just a fleeting good or bad mood, the cycles of bipolar disorder last for days, weeks, or months. And unlike ordinary mood swings, the mood changes of bipolar disorder are so intense that they interfere with your ability to function.
During a manic episode, you might impulsively quit your job, charge up huge amounts on credit cards, or feel rested after sleeping two hours. During a depressive episode, you might be too tired to get out of bed, and full of self-loathing and hopelessness over being unemployed and in debt.
The causes of bipolar disorder aren’t completely understood, but it often appears to be hereditary. The first manic or depressive episode of bipolar disorder usually occurs in the teenage years or early adulthood. The symptoms can be subtle and confusing; many people with bipolar disorder are overlooked or misdiagnosed—resulting in unnecessary suffering. But with proper treatment, self-help, and support, you can function normally and lead a rich and fulfilling life.
If you spot the symptoms of bipolar disorder in yourself or someone else, don’t wait to get help. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away; in fact, it will almost certainly get worse. Living with untreated bipolar disorder can lead to problems in everything from your career to your relationships to your health. But bipolar disorder is highly treatable, so diagnosing the problem and starting treatment as early as possible can help prevent these complications.
If you’re reluctant to seek treatment because you like the way you feel when you’re manic, remember that the energy and euphoria come with a price. Mania and hypomania often turn destructive, hurting you and the people around you.
While dealing with bipolar disorder isn’t always easy, it doesn’t have to run your life. But in order to successfully manage bipolar disorder, you have to make smart choices. Your lifestyle and daily habits can have a significant impact on your moods and may even lessen your need for medication.
If you're experiencing any of the above symptoms, please contact your medical professional or go to your nearest emergency room.