“I’ve finished my assessment and I believe your child has Bipolar Disorder. We’ll need to get them started on medication right away.”
Have you been on the receiving end of these words or something similar? I have. Stunned, it felt like I’d been punched in the stomach, like the end of the world. Myy husband and I needed help understanding what a diagnosis of bipolar meant. We wondered how this would impact our daughter’s future? What adjustments would need to be made?
Please don’t despair, if this is your situation. A fulfilling life is still possible.
This is part 2 in a series on mental illness. The information I will be sharing is from The National Alliance on Mental Illness, nami.org Please refer back to my first blog post in this series (May 16) for an introduction to the topic of mental illness.
Bipolar Disorder is also known as manic depression. A mood disorder, bipolar is common, with nearly 3 million cases in the U.S. per year. Characterized by extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning, people experience alternating episodes of mania (severe highs), depression (severe lows), and mixed states which contain elements of both high and low experiences.
These episodes may last for days, weeks, or even months, and are often separated by periods of fairly normal moods. A chronic condition with recurring episodes, bipolar often begins in adolescence or early adulthood. If your child has been diagnosed, remember this does NOT mean they’re sentenced to a life of misery. Good treatment is available from many professionals who are continually improving their understanding of this mental health issue.
Manic phase – Hyperactivity, anger, impaired judgement, increased spending or sex drive, aggressive behavior, grandiose notions, delusions, and exaggerated feelings of productivity and self-confidence. Loss of control, disorganization, extreme irritability, and eventual inability to function can occur. Manic “highs” are often described as one’s best feeling ever, so people rarely seek treatment during this time.
Depressive phase – Loss of capacity for pleasure, profound sadness, irritability, sleep changes (insomnia), decreased appetite and concentration, low self-esteem, and thoughts of suicide.
Scientific evidence suggests bipolar disorder may be the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Research has also shown evidence of a genetic predisposition. While hereditary, it’s not always passed down to the next generation. (My mother had bipolar, but I’m don’t.) Occasionally, traumatic life events such as a serious loss, chronic illness, abuse or financial problems can trigger an episode in those with a predisposition.
Most people living with bipolar disorder (80-90%) can achieve recovery with a treatment plan. (How encouraging!) Maintenance treatment with a mood stabilizer is known to significantly reduce the number and severity of episodes. Becoming educated and learning coping skills are essential to manage stress that can trigger an episode. Effectiveness of treatment depends on the severity, how long the individual has suffered with it, how well they respond to medication and how engaged they are in their treatment and recovery.
Although a chronic illness, bipolar disorder is highly treatable. Options are continually improving the future outlook.
Listen to this interview with Naomi Judd who suffered for years wtih bipolar disorder and other mental health disorders. Tragically, she ended her life after battling successfully for many years. A hard reality is that the risk of suicide is much higher for people with bipolar, but do not despair. With accurate diagnosis (the earlier the better), effective medication, ongoing counseling, attention to health and wellness, combined with peer and family support, most people can obtain relief from their symptoms. Like my own mother, they can live satisfying, meaningful lives. What great news that gives much hope.
Authors Russ Federman and J. Anderson Thomson, a psychiatrist and a psychologist, wrote the helpful book Facing Bipolar(listed on our website). They say do not let bipolar define you. People are much more than their disorder. Their book does a great job of explaining bipolar to a younger audience (teens and young adults), helping them overcome denial, understand adjustments they need to make and how important it is to take care of themselves.
Hope From the Bible:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubles and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) NIV
Other Helpful Books and 2 Resources:
Facing Bipolar, Russ Federman and J. Anderson Thomson
The Bipolar Experience by LeeAnn Jefferies
An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison (the author is one of the leading authorities and she herself is bipolar; this is her story)
A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic-Depressive Illness, Patty Duke and Gloria Hochman
NAMI The National Alliance on Mental Illness – information, free classes, peer and family support, advocacy
Fresh Hope – founded by a pastor who has bipolar; coaching, podcasts, blogs, videos, webinars and faith-based support groups (in person and online) for the individual and their loved ones
***WHAT HAS HELPED YOU?***
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