Bipolar Disorder, also known as Manic Depression, involves episodes of mania and depression, with periods of stability. Manic episodes are characterized by elevated energy levels, restlessness, feeling of nothing can go wrong, and high self-confidence; while depressive episodes are the exact opposite: low energy, sluggish, sadness, and feeling of hopelessness. Occasionally, people suffering from Bipolar Disorder can suffer more severe symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking.
Although they do not know the exact cause of Bipolar Disorder, researchers believe that biologic, genetic and environmental factors are all involved in causing and triggering episodes of the illness. Evidence suggests that an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain is the culprit.
Episodes can last weeks or months.Order now
For two years I live with a 16 year-old girl named Nicole who had Bipolar Disorder. I witnessed several episodes ranging from calm to severe.
A calm episode would usually consist of only the manic stage. She had about 7 calm episodes while she lived with me. In reality, calm episodes are just episodes caught in enough time so that an adjustment of her medication was able to stabilize her.
In a more severe episode, Nicole would usually decline mentally over a 7-day period, at which point she would need to be hospitalized.
Nicoles behavior during a severe episode included wild mood swings: from extreme happiness to anger to sadness; disorganized thinking: she was unable to follow conversations, and would make inappropriate statements; and cutting depression: she tried to kill herself 4 times.
Nicoles illness affected her life completely. Having spent her most of her life in and out of hospitals she was unable to attend school on a regular basis. She had few friends because she was embarrassed to tell them about her condition.
Nicole eventually left our house during a severe episode.
She became paranoid that we were trying to control her. She packed all of her stuff and left to go live with her mother. We heard that she was hospitalized just 3 days later. She was in the hospital for 5 months, her longest stretch ever.
I went and visited her in the hospital several times. I barely recognized her.
She was not thinking clearly, delusional, and paranoid. When she was in remission, she was completely normal. Now, she couldnt pay attention, was fidgety, and told me she was hearing voices again.
As of October of 2001, Nicole is living in a halfway house because her illness is unable to be kept under control.
Many Manic Depressants can, for the most part, live normal lives. Unfortunately Nicole is one of the ones who never will.
Her illness, for the rest of her life, will have her in and out of hospitals, probably at a rate of at least one time per year.
Can you imagine every year for the rest of your life you are in a hospital for weeks, or even months?
You can read the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in a textbook, but that does not even begin to touch on the reality of the illness. Patients with this illness have almost no control over it. Drug therapy works, but as of yet, has been unable to stop episodes all together. Eating right, taking care of your self, and taking medications on a regular basis can help, but there is no cure. They never know when an episode will occur, or how long it will last.