If you or someone you know has thoughts of death or suicide, contact a medical professional, clergy member, loved one, friend or hospital emergency room or call 911 immediately.
Pray for courage and compassion - if your loved one has
Bipolar Disorder you will be hurt in some way, perhaps not physically, but
certainly emotionally. This is inevitable and unavoidable. You have to consciously
decide to how you are going to respond when this happens.
Try not to take it personally.
Educate yourself. The more we understand about the
condition, the more appropriate our responses will be. As someone once said,
"Awareness leads to control."
Avoid the temptation to dismiss the symptoms by mislabeling them as character
flaws. Bipolar Disorder is a physical illness which affects the behavior. It is known
to have an inheritable biological component as well as an environmental component.
Someday it may be as well understood and treatable as a paper cut, but for now
any easy answers are beyond the reach of science.
Skipping a few hours of sleep here and there may
be trivial for many people, but for those affected by Bipolar Disorder it can easily
trigger the episodes which can cause so much pain and suffering. You must decide if you
are willing to do whatever it takes to provide an environment where your loved
one can sleep well and regularly.
Maintain a stable sleep pattern.
Maintain a regular pattern of activity.
Avoid alcohol or illicit drugs.
Try to eliminate causes of stress.
Be financially responsible. The classic
symptoms of Bipolar Disorder include "spending sprees" and "unrealistic
beliefs in one's abilities and powers." The ultimate consequences of
financial excesses will only create more stress, lead to more episodes,
depression and possibly even suicide.
You cannot take care of anyone if you don't take care
of yourself first. If you have ever traveled by air, you've been told "Put
your own oxygen mask on first before assisting the person next to you." The reason
is simple - a lack of oxygen might debilitate you before you can succeed at
getting the mask on the person next to you - then both of you are lost.
"You might wonder why someone who takes medication to control their symptoms might stop taking his or her medication. After all, if you found a drug that got rid of your migraine headaches and had no serious side effects, why would you ever want the headaches back?
"The truth is that the highs and even the lows contribute some degree of “passion” to one’s personality—or so it seems. While bipolar artists do their best painting and writers produce their best poetry during high or low episodes, they find that medication may leave them feeling quite flat and relatively lacking in emotion. When they get to a point where they fear the loss of their talent, and even their very livelihood, they may decide to stop taking medication in favor of regaining the extremes of emotion that they prefer.
Make note of change in sleeping patterns, especially if your loved one has lots of energy on just a few hours of sleep.
Is she restlessly searching for ways to work off extra energy? Washing the car every day? Make note of this.
Be alert to increased talkativeness. If her mouth runneth over, this could be another symptom, especially if the talk seems pressured.
Be aware if your loved one starts making "clang" associations - such as going on about microphones, xylophones and bites o' cones.
If your spouse/partner is suddenly more sexually demanding, enjoy it - but it could be a symptom.
Check your phone bill for calls to 900 sex numbers. This, unfortunately, is another symptom of bipolar hypersexuality.
Study your credit card bills diligently! Mania can cause disastrous spending sprees. Consider taking the cards and checkbook away.
Notice if he complains that his thoughts are racing uncontrollably.
Be on the alert if she starts having delusions of grandeur - for example, making exaggerated plans like "I'm going to quit my job and write a novel" or "Let's move to Yemen this weekend!"
Watch out for unreasonable irritability and/or hostility. This is not just a symptom - it can be dangerous. Be cautious!
Increased religious zeal or involvement can be another sign of mania. Make note of this if you see it.
If she describes auditory or visual hallucinations or shows paranoid behavior, contact her psychiatrist immediately. These are serious symptoms.
During a manic episode, a person is likely to wear brightly colored or flamboyant clothing. Note this if it occurs with other symptoms.
If manic symptoms occur following a change in medications, contact the prescribing
If you start having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, keep a record and watch for other symptoms.
Be on the alert if your wife starts sleeping excessively. Seriously depressed persons can sleep as much as 20 hours a day in some cases.
Be concerned if your husband begins cancelling social engagements and staring at television programs he otherwise wouldn't watch.
Notice if mail - even bills - is piling up unopened, or other common tasks such as laundry, taking out garbage, etc., are not being done.
Marked change in appetite (increase or decrease), or significant weight gain or loss, can signify many conditions, including depression; consider it in light of other depressive symptoms.
Keep track of episodes of unexplained and uncontrolled crying.
Document feelings of sadness, guilt, worthlessness or despair that last most or all day for several days.
Be alert if you or your loved one exhibits signs of unusual worry, anger, negativity, helplessness or hopelessness.
Pay attention if you or a loved one begins to have difficulty making even simple decisions. This is a very common warning sign of depression.
Be sensitive to behavioral changes such as disorganization, inability to concentrate, or indifference to everyday necessary tasks.
Notice if actions and thoughts seem to be slowing down (psychomotor retardation) or speeding up jerkily (psychomotor agitation).
Watch your loved one for physical signs of depression such as slumped posture, frowning, decreased eye contact, frequent sighing, inattentive speech, or decreased sexual desires.
Contact the doctor quickly if you experience, or your loved one reports, recurrent thoughts of death and suicide.
If depressive symptoms appear after a change in medication, contact the prescribing doctor promptly.
Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a serious brain disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. It affects 2.3 million adult Americans, or 1.2 percent of the population. Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of mania and depression that can last from days to months. Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition with recurring episodes that often begin in adolescence or early adulthood. It generally requires ongoing treatment.
What are the symptoms of mania?
Mania is the word that describes the activated phase of bipolar disorder. The symptoms of mania may include:
either an elated, happy mood or an irritable, angry, unpleasant mood
increased activity or energy
more thoughts and faster thinking than normal
increased talking, more rapid speech than normal
ambitious, often grandiose, plans
increased sexual interest and activity
decreased sleep and decreased need for sleep
What are the symptoms of depression?
Depression is the other phase of bipolar disorder. The symptoms of depression may include:
depressed or apathetic mood
decreased activity and energy
restlessness and irritability
fewer thoughts than usual and slowed thinking
less talking and slowed speech
less interest or participation in, and less enjoyment of activities normally enjoyed
decreased sexual interest and activity
hopeless and helpless feelings
feelings of guilt and worthlessness
thoughts of suicide
change in appetite
change in sleep patterns
What is a "mixed" state?
A mixed state is when symptoms of mania and depression occur at the same time. During a mixed state depressed mood accompanies manic activation. The symptoms during a mixed state often include agitation, trouble sleeping, significant change in appetite, psychosis, and suicidal thinking.
What is rapid cycling?
Sometimes individuals may experience regularly alternating periods of mania and depression. When four or more episodes of illness occur within a 12-month period, the individual is said to have bipolar disorder with rapid cycling. Rapid cycling is more common in women.
What are the causes of bipolar disorder?
While the exact cause of bipolar disorder is not known, researchers believe it is the result of a chemical imbalance in the certain parts of the brain. Scientists have found evidence of a genetic predisposition to the illness. Bipolar disorder tends to run in families, and close relatives of someone with bipolar disorder are more likely to be affected by the disorder. Sometimes serious life events such as a serious loss, chronic illness, or financial problem, can trigger an episode in some individuals with a predisposition to the disorder. There are other possible "triggers" of bipolar episodes: the treatment of depression with an antidepressant medication may trigger a switch into mania, sleep deprivation may trigger mania, or hypothyroidism may produce depression or mood instability. It is important to note that bipolar episodes can also occur without an obvious trigger.