Each and every year today (30th March) is marked by World Bipolar Day, a day dedicated to the awareness and reduction of stigma of bipolar disorder. World Bipolar day is the initiative of three organisations, those being the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD). This day is appropriately shared with the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was likely to have suffered from bipolar disorder amongst other disorders and illnesses.
Bipolar Disorder (previously known as manic depression) is a condition characterised by cycling through periods of very low (depression), and very high (mania) moods which can last from weeks to months or even possibly years.
Sometimes an individual with bipolar disorder may go through times where their mood is a combination of both depression and mania, this is known as a mixed episode, and is as equally distressing as episodes of both depression and mania. An individual with bipolar disorder may also experience what is known as rapid cycling, this is when a persons mood will fluctuate from depression to mania within hours or days.
There is no cure for bipolar disorder, however, it can be managed so that those who suffer from the disorder can lead a relatively normal life; though that does not mean that it ends the suffering and pain caused by the disorder, rather treatment can make the symptoms become more manageable and easier to cope with. Treatment for bipolar disorder is typically a combination of both medication and therapy. The types of medication and therapy used varies as the management of bipolar disorder will be different for each and every individual. Although rare, some individuals may find that they are treatment resistant meaning that medication will not benefit them in any way, though therapy may still be an option.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), bipolar disorder is the 6th leading cause of disability across the globe, as well as being identified as one of the top causes of loss of years of life and health in those 15 – 44 years old. It is estimated that 2% – 7% of the population of the US suffer from the disorder, and almost 10 million people will develop the disorder sometime during their lives, yet half of them will never receive the correct diagnoses or treatment. Within the UK, approximately 723,248 people suffer from bipolar disorder, which equals to 1% – 2% of the population. On average it takes 10 years to receive the correct diagnoses, with an average of being misdiagnosed 3.5 times before receiving the correct diagnoses.
Bipolar Disorder Facts:
– There is more than one type of bipolar disorder, these include:
– bipolar type I: considered the classic type of bipolar, the individual will experience periods of both mania and depression of varying lengths
– bipolar type II: the individual will experience episodes of hypomania (a less severe form of mania) as well as depressive episodes equal to that of bipolar type I
– cylcothymia: a chronic but less severe form of bipolar disorder, which is characterised by experiencing episodes of depression and hypomania that lasts for at least two years
– rapid-cycling: in order to be diagnosed with rapid-cycling, the individual must experience four or more episodes of depression, mania or both within the same year
– bipolar with psychotic features: the individual will experience psychosis during episodes of mania, depression, and a combination of the two
– Bipolar disorder is an episodic illness, meaning that there are typically periods of stability and normal mood in the individual, however, this varies greatly from person to person
– The types of episodes found in bipolar disorder include:
– depression: a period of extremely low mood
– mania: a period of having an extremely elated mood
– mixed episodes: a combination of both mania and depression
– hypomania: a less severe form of mania
– When an individual is experiencing a severe episode of depression or mania, they may also experience psychotic symptoms
– The median onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years old, although the onset can occur as early as childhood or at any given age
– The disorder increases the risk of suicide by 20 times
– Bipolar disorder can and will effect every aspect of an individuals life
– Bipolar disorder does not discriminate, it effects men and women equally, as well as those of all races, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic class
In comparison to other health conditions, those who suffer from bipolar disorder, or any other form of mental illness, are far more likely to face stigma. Stigma may present itself in many forms, some more subtle than others, however, it all contributes to the negativity surrounding mental illness. In turn, this negativity causes people to become far less likely to talk about their problems or to try and find help. Over the years, stigma has and still continues to cause vast amounts of damage to those suffering from mental illness, it is time to bring an end to this.
Firstly, begin with yourself. Educate yourself, followed by those around you, show support to those suffering from bipolar disorder or any other form of mental illness. Learn to respond to what you do not understand with kindness rather than ignorance and fear. We all have a choice in this, therefore use your own power to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. If each and every person did this, stigma would no longer be a problem.
I stand with those who suffer from mental illness, I will forever continue to raise awareness and give my support to those who need it. I am one of you, and I will never be ashamed of that.