10 things everyone needs to know about Bipolar Disorder

Some call it manic depression, or manic depressive disorder, but call it what you will, Bipolar disorder is a debilitating mental health problem that means that the sufferer experiences extreme ups and downs in mood, from depressed to manic. Like many mental health disorders, many people have heard of bipolar disorder, but few really understand it. There are lots of myths about bipolar disorder so, to the record straight; here are ten facts about bipolar disorder that everyone should know.

1. Bipolar disorder is not the same as depression
Bipolar disorder is not the same thing as depression. A person who suffers from bipolar disorder will experience some periods of deep depressions and some of hyperactivity, or manic phases. A person who suffers from depression will experience periods of depression, but does not experience the manic phase.

2. What are the causes of bipolar disorder?
It does appear that, while genes do have a part to play in who does and who sides not develop bipolar disorder, it is not the only factor. Other factors that may trigger the illness include stressful life events and other environmental factors including substance abuse.

3. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition
Bipolar disorder can be controlled, but not cured. The severe peaks and troughs of mood swings can be smoothed, to a degree, with medication, but a person who suffers from bipolar disorder will still experience mood swings to a greater degree than most people do.

4. Bipolar disorder is an episodic illness
Sufferers of Bipolar disorder are not always depressed or manic; they will usually experience periods of relative stability too. 

5. What is the manic phase like?
A person who is experiencing a manic phase may act erratically. They will probably experience racing thoughts and may feel very happy. They are also likely to take rash decisions and may put themselves at risk. They may also become more aggressive and be more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs.

6. Mood swings do not mean that you are bipolar
Most people experience good days and bad days and that can be caused by what you have eaten or how tired you are. There is a big difference though between the minor mood swings of day to day life and the extreme ones of bipolar disorder.

7. Many people with bipolar disorder cannot work
People who suffer from bipolar disorder and those of us who suffer from severe depression are not lazy, they can’t work. Yes, they have days when they feel OK, but then they have days when they don’t. They certainly can’t guarantee that they will be able to turn up to work, Monday to Friday, every day of the week.

8. Left untreated, bipolar disorder can be dangerous
Bipolar disorder can lead to suicidal thoughts, during the depressed phase and rash, high risk behaviour, during the manic phase. If left untreated the illness can easily lead to a person harming themselves or taking their own lives.

9. Bipolar disorder can be different, for different people
There is no one catchall definition to describe a bipolar patient and what is written here can only be a generalisation. The illness can manifest itself in different ways and with different degrees of severity, in different people.

10. Can bipolar disorder be managed?
Although the illness is different, from one person to another, it can usually be managed through medication and lifestyle choices. For some people, sticking to regular eating and sleeping patterns can help and learning to spot when an episode is on the way can be important. Some people do live perfectly well with bipolar disorder and are able to live relatively normal lives.