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The Mindful Influence From Bipolar Disorder

by Rishita Dubey
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No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness” – Aristotle

Can we just take a moment out of our busy lives to feel  ourselves? Bipolar disorder can be a beast. We are either living with it or supporting someone who does, and that deserves some recognition. Every day that we get up and face the day is a success. And that is something we should be proud upon.

We all have our ups and downs, but with bipolar disorder (once known as manic depression or manic-depressive disorder) these peaks and valleys are more severe. Bipolar 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 can interfere with your job or school performance, damage your relationships, and disrupt your ability to function in daily life.

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. Since bipolar disorder tends to worsen without treatment, it’s important to learn what the symptoms look like. Recognizing the problem is the first step to feeling better and getting your life back on track.

Causes and triggers

1. Bipolar disorder has no single cause. It appears that certain people are genetically predisposed to bipolar disorder, yet not everyone with an inherited vulnerability develops the illness, indicating that genes are not the only cause. Some brain imaging studies show physical changes in the brains of people with bipolar disorder. Other research points to neurotransmitter imbalances, abnormal thyroid function, circadian rhythm disturbances, and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

2. External environmental and psychological factors are also believed to be involved in the development of bipolar disorder. These external factors are called triggers. Triggers can set off new episodes of mania or depression or make existing symptoms worse. However, many bipolar disorder episodes occur without an obvious trigger.

3 . Stress. Stressful life events can trigger bipolar disorder in someone with a genetic vulnerability. These events tend to involve drastic or sudden changes—either good or bad—such as getting married, going away to college, losing a loved one, getting fired, or moving.

4. Substance Abuse. While substance abuse doesn’t cause bipolar disorder, it can bring on an episode or worsen the course of the disease. Drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamines can trigger mania, while alcohol and tranquilizers can trigger depression.

5. Medication. Certain medications, most notably antidepressant drugs, can trigger mania. Other drugs that can cause mania include over-the-counter cold medicine, appetite suppressants, caffeine, corticosteroids, and thyroid medication.

6. Seasonal Changes. Episodes of mania and depression often follow a seasonal pattern. Manic episodes are more common during the summer, and depressive episodes more common during the fall, winter, and spring.

7. Sleep Deprivation. Loss of sleep—even as little as skipping a few hours of rest—can trigger an episode of mania.

Bipolar depression symptoms

In the past, bipolar depression was lumped in with regular depression, but a growing body of research suggests that there are significant differences between the two, especially when it comes to recommended treatments.

Most people with bipolar depression are not helped by antidepressants. In fact, there is a risk that antidepressants can make bipolar disorder worse—triggering mania or hypomania, causing rapid cycling between mood states, or interfering with other mood stabilizing drugs.

Despite many similarities, certain symptoms are more common in bipolar depression than in regular depression. For example, bipolar depression is more likely to involve irritability, guilt, unpredictable mood swings, and feelings of restlessness. With bipolar depression, you may move and speak slowly, sleep a lot, and gain weight. In addition, you’re more likely to develop psychotic depression—a condition in which you lose contact with reality—and to experience major problems in work and social functioning.

Common symptoms of bipolar depression include:

1. Feeling hopeless, sad, or empty

2. Irritability

3. Inability to experience pleasure

4. Fatigue or loss of energy

5. Physical and mental sluggishness

6. Appetite or weight changes

7. Sleep problems

8. Concentration and memory problems

9. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

10. Thoughts of death or suicide

Treatment for bipolar disorder

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…

The keys to bipolar disorder self-help

1  Get educated. Learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder. The more you know, the better you’ll be at assisting your own recovery.

2  Get moving. Exercise has a beneficial impact on mood and may reduce the number of bipolar episodes you experience. Aerobic exercise that activates arm and leg movement such as running, walking, swimming, dancing, climbing or drumming may be especially beneficial to your brain and nervous system.

3. Keep stress in check. Avoid high-stress situations, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.

4  Seek support. It’s important to have people you can turn to for help and encouragement. Try joining a support group or talking to a trusted friend. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it won’t mean you’re a burden to others. In fact, most friends will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your relationship.

5  Stay closely connected to friends and family. Nothing is as calming to the nervous system as face-to-face contact with caring supportive people who can just listen to you talk about what you’re experiencing.

6. Make healthy choices. Healthy sleeping and eating habits can help stabilize your moods. Keeping a regular sleep schedule is particularly important.

7. Monitor your moods. Keep track of your symptoms and watch for signs that your moods are swinging out of control so you can stop the problem before it starts.

8. Bipolar disorder requires long-term treatment. Since bipolar disorder is a chronic, relapsing illness, it’s important to continue treatment even when you’re feeling better. Most people with bipolar disorder need medication to prevent new episodes and stay symptom-free.

9. There is more to treatment than medication. Medication alone is usually not enough to fully control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. The most effective treatment strategy for bipolar disorder involves a combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and social support.

Books recommended to know more about bipolar disorder:

1. Madness: A Bipolar Life

An astonishing dispatch from inside the belly of bipolar disorder, reflecting major new insights When Marya Hornbacher published her first book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, she did not yet have the piece of shattering knowledge that would finally make sense of the chaos of her life. At age twenty-four, Hornbacher was diagnosed with Type I rapid-cycle bipolar, the most severe form of bipolar disorder.

In Madness, in her trademark wry and utterly self-revealing voice, Hornbacher tells her new story. Through scenes of astonishing visceral and emotional power, she takes us inside her own desperate attempts to counteract violently careening mood swings by self-starvation, substance abuse, numbing sex, and self-mutilation. How Hornbacher fights her way up from a madness that all but destroys her, and what it is like to live in a difficult and sometimes beautiful life and marriage — where bipolar always beckons — is at the center of this brave and heart-stopping memoir.

Madness delivers the revelation that Hornbacher is not alone: millions of people in America today are struggling with a variety of disorders that may disguise their bipolar disease. And Hornbacher’s fiercely self-aware portrait of her own bipolar as early as age four will powerfully change, too, the current debate on whether bipolar in children actually exists.

Ten years after Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, this storm of a memoir will revolutionize our understanding of bipolar disorder.

2.Manic: A Memoir

An attractive, highly successful Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer, Terri Cheney had been battling debilitating bipolar disorder for the better part of her life ;and concealing a pharmacy is worth of prescription drugs meant to stabilize her moods and make her “normal.” In explosive bursts of prose that mirror the devastating mania and extreme despair of her illness, Cheney describes her roller-coaster existence with shocking honesty, giving brilliant voice to the previously unarticulated madness she endured. Brave, electrifying, poignant, and disturbing, Manic does not simply explain bipolar disorder ;it takes us into its grasp and does not let go.

3. New Hope For People With Bipolar Disorder

This easy-to-read book demystifies the illness and teaches without scaring. “There are a number of self-help titles for people with bipolar disorder, but this one has several singular features. For starters, it’s written by a full-treatment team-a psychiatrist (Fawcett), a psychologist (Bernard Golden), and a patient (Nancy Rosenfeld)-so readers are given a unique combination of expertise and practical tips for daily coping. Medications, forms of therapy, suicide prevention, childhood and adolescent bipolar illness, how to deal with the stigma of mental illness, and information for family members and friends count among the topics covered. This revised edition includes a new chapter titled “Questions and Answers Regarding Bipolar Disorder,” updated resources, and new information on medications; the latter alone justifies the price of updating for those libraries that own the first edition (2000). This book, along with E. Fuller Torrey and Michael Knable’s Surviving Manic Depression: A Manual on Bipolar Disorder for Patients, Families, and Providers , should be in every public library, no matter how small.

4  An Unquiet Mind

In her bestselling classic, An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison changed the way we think about moods and madness.

Dr. Jamison is one of the foremost authorities on manic-depressive (bipolar) illness; she has also experienced it firsthand. For even while she was pursuing her career in academic medicine, Jamison found herself succumbing to the same exhilarating highs and catastrophic depressions that afflicted many of her patients, as her disorder launched her into ruinous spending sprees, episodes of violence, and an attempted suicide.

Here Jamison examines bipolar illness from the dual perspectives of the healer and the healed, revealing both its terrors and the cruel allure that at times prompted her to resist taking medication. An Unquiet Mind is a memoir of enormous candor, vividness, and wisdom—a deeply powerful book that has both transformed and saved lives.

5.   Bipolar Disorder for Dummies

When you or a loved one is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it can be a time of fear and worry. Bipolar Bipolar Disorder For Dummies, 3rd Edition is a reassuring guide that sorts out the differences between bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder; explains the biology behind the illness; and covers the latest medications, therapies, and self-help techniques to ease and eliminate symptoms, function in times of crisis, and plan ahead for manic or depressive episodes.

This latest edition includes coverage of the DSM-5 ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) classifications and specifiers for bipolar disorder, updated content on genetics, biochemistry, and imaging studies relevant to bipolar; expanded coverage on how to handle the high costs of treatment; guidance for supporting a loved one (who may not want help); and expert insight into medications and treatment options, including electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and deep brain stimulation (DBS); along with new coverage on special populations (differences in diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder in women, seniors, expectant moms, ethnic populations, and other groups).

Bipolar disorder, which has also been called manic-depression, is a brain disorder that causes unusual mood swings and shifting energy levels. The symptoms of bipolar disorder can, if not understood and properly treated, disrupt relationships, families, and careers. The good news is that bipolar disorder responds very well to the right medication, therapy, and self-help strategies and skills. When bipolar disorder makes you feel as though you’re losing control, reach for Bipolar Disorder For Dummies–the book that puts you back in the driver’s seat.

Recognize the warning signs of mania and depression

Tell the difference between bipolar I, bipolar II, and related conditions

Discover which medications are best for treating both poles of bipolar disorder–depression and mania–and for treating related conditions, including anxiety

Find practical strategies for dealing with medication side effects

Develop communication, problem-solving, and conflict-management skills for preventing and dealing with the interpersonal conflict that often accompanies bipolar disorder

Find out what you can do to help a loved one with bipolar disorder

Bipolar Disorder For Dummies, 3rd Edition offers straightforward, reassuring information about bipolar disorder to help you or your loved one conquer the illness.

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