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Bi-Polar

What is Bi-Polar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a term that is used to explain the way it is possible for the same person to experience massive mood swings from one extreme to the other. The term manic-depression is also sometimes still used to describe the same thing. This goes beyond the usual highs and lows of life. We all go through times of happiness and sadness at one time or another.  Where bi-polar differs is the lack of control over these emotional states and the extreme nature of the mood changes. In a bipolar state you can get so high or “manic” that you completely lose touch with reality. For example, you might feel so big and important that you spend loads of money that you haven’t got or you become obsessed with some grand scheme or mission. You can become hyperactive and feel convinced that the world somehow revolves around you. This manic space isn’t exactly enjoyable. You can also feel irritable, aggressive and out of control.

At the other end of the scale you can go into a really down space where you feel the opposite – worthless, unimportant, like your life doesn’t mean anything at all. This is the “depressed” end of the scale.

You might have heard that some of the most successful, talented and creative people in life, like famous artists, writers and comedians, have experienced these kinds of extreme states of mind. That isn’t to glamourise it, because even for such people it involves a lot of unhappiness between the higher moments. Of course, a lot of less creative people can feel the same way too and it’s mainly painful to endure and painful for other people to live with.

What causes it?

When you look at it, it’s not hard to see what’s going on. The same person is either over valuing or undervaluing their life in a very extreme way. It’s two sides of the same coin. We are not born to have such a powerfully inflated or deflated opinion of ourselves; we have to learn this from our early lives, regardless of genetics which obviously play some part in all human conditions. A lot of people with bipolar disorder, like with all serious mental health problems, have experienced abuse, trauma, rejection or neglect of some kind during their childhoods. All children need to feel special from birth and if this need isn’t met we can go through our lives looking to be special, even if this has to become a delusion or a fantasy. When the bubble bursts and the fantasy breaks down we feel the opposite, as if we’re worthless. This is when some people can become suicidal.

What Helps?

There are forms of medication that can have a relatively quick impact in balancing mood. This can be very helpful but there can be side-effects. Medication is not the only option, and you should explore all possible ways to deal with your condition before settling for medicines.  You also need to deal with any psychological issues relating to the disorder. It is a myth that bipolar disorder, or any serious mental health problem for that matter, is something unchangeable in your brain that you have to live with all your life. It is also a myth that mental health problems have no reason or meaning to them. Talking to someone who can get to know you and work with you on your issues over a period of time can help you change in the longer term. There is no single answer. Everybody needs stability, to belong and to feel valued and there are loads of different ways of achieving this. If you are unsure about your own feelings why not give us a call at CALM? We won’t judge you and are able to point you towards local services available. The sooner you talk, the more likely you are to find your own way forward.

www.youngminds.org.uk/bipolar  www.bipolaruk.org.uk/

Amended and accredited by Martin Seager CPsychol AFBPsS 23rd April 2013

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