That’s what Winston Churchill, who was believed to have suffered from bipolar disorder, called his illness. Lord Beaverbrook, his good friend and colleague, said Churchill was: “always at the top of the wheel of confidence or at the bottom of an intense depression.”
Bipolar disorder is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses. According to the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, it is a brain disorder characterized by unusual mood swings, bursts or lack of energy and activity, and impaired ability to function and perform daily tasks.
“There is a real lack of knowledge that bipolar is a medical illness,” says Susan L. McElroy, M.D., the Chief Research Officer for the Lindner Center of HOPE. “Too many people still view it as a person making bad choices or having a weak character or personality. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
There are four types of bipolar disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
- Bipolar I Disorder– patients have experienced “one or more episodes of mania. Most people diagnosed with bipolar I will have episodes of both mania and depression, though an episode of depression is not necessary for a diagnosis. To be diagnosed with bipolar I, a person’s manic episodes must last at least seven days or be so severe that hospitalization is required.”
- Bipolar II Disorderis a “subset of bipolar disorder in which people experience depressive episodes shifting back and forth with hypomanic episodes, but never a ‘full’ manic episode.”
- Cyclothymiais a “chronically unstable mood state in which people experience hypomania and mild depression for at least two years.”
- Bipolar Disorder, “other specified” and “unspecified”is when a person does not meet “the criteria for bipolar I, II or cyclothymia but has still experienced periods of clinically significant abnormal mood elevation.”
World Bipolar Awareness Day
The International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) designated March 30 as World Bipolar Awareness Day (WBD) to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with the disorder.
“World Bipolar Day is an excellent opportunity for us [ISBD members] to reach out to patients, families and advocacy groups to invite them to work together on this global project to sensitize and bring awareness to bipolar disorders,” wrote Manuel Sanchez de Carmona, ISBD President on the organization’s website. “WBD is a platform to think global and act local – our vision will be attained with a motivated and strong local effort.”
The ISBD recommends several ways that people can raise awareness for this disorder. Fororganizations, it suggests promoting awareness through social media channels, putting the WBD on the organization’s website, hosting education events or webinars, and distributing flyers or pamphlets in healthcare facilities (like hospitals).
For individuals, the ISBD suggests many of the same activities as organizations, but also propose following WBD on Facebook and adding a WBD signature to your email account.
Bipolar Disorder Treatment
Managing bipolar daily can be exhausting; the disease robs individuals of the ability to control their moods and complete routine tasks. That same daily grind of disease management can cause patients and their caregivers to fear the future.
According to the Mayo Clinic, bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that can be helped by medications and other therapies. Specifically, there are typically five kinds of medication that may be prescribed to manage bipolar symptoms:
- Mood stabilizersto control manic or hypomanic episodes
- Antipsychoticscan help manage symptoms of depression or mania
- Antidepressantsto help manage depression
- Antidepressant-antipsychoticact as a depression treatment and mood stabilizer
- Anti-anxiety medications can help improve sleep and minimize anxiety
Help is available. Talk to your healthcare provider about resources and support groups available or reach out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness by calling the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).
There is hope for tomorrow!