Very often in bipolar disorder, people with hypomania may not realize it's a problem. They may even enjoy it, finding it to be a productive time. Others struggle with depression, not getting the help that could relieve their suffering.
Yet for various reasons, they don't get help from a doctor. They shrug off a friend or family member's concern. Others view their illness as a distraction or a weakness, and they don't want to give in to it. Still others put their health at a very low priority compared with other things in their lives.
Bipolar I disorder (pronounced "bipolar one" and also known as manic-depressive disorder or manic depression) is a form of mental illness. A person affected by bipolar I disorder has had at least one manic episode in his or her life. A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood and high energy, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life.
Most people with bipolar I disorder also suffer from episodes of depression. Often, there is a pattern of cycling between mania and depression...
However, fear is often the reason for not seeing a doctor. That's especially true if there is a family history of emotional problems. People in denial are protected from their worst fears. They can stay comfortably in their everyday routines -- even though relationships and careers can be at stake.
If you're concerned about a loved one who could have bipolar disorder, talk to him or her about seeing a doctor. Sometimes, simply suggesting a health checkup is the best approach. With other people, it's best to be direct about your concern regarding a mood disorder. Include these points in the discussion:
It's not your fault. You have not caused this disorder. Genetics and stressful life events put people at greater vulnerability for bipolar disorder.
Millions of Americans have bipolar disorder. It can develop at any point in a person's life -- though it usually develops in young adulthood -- and is responsible for enormous suffering.
Bipolar disorder is a real disease. Just like heart disease or diabetes, it requires medical treatment.
There's a medical explanation for bipolar disorder. Disruptions in brain chemistry and nerve cell pathways are involved. The brain circuits -- those that control emotion -- are not working the way they should. Because of this, people experience certain moods more intensely, for longer periods of time, and more frequently.
Good treatments are available. These treatments have been tested and found to be effective for many, many people with bipolar disorder. Medications can help stabilize your moods. Through therapy, you can discuss feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that cause problems in your social and work life. You can learn how to master these so you can function better and live a more satisfying life.
By not getting treatment, you risk having worse mood swings -- and even becoming suicidal. You risk damaging your relationships with friends and family. You could put your job at risk. And your long-term physical health can also be affected, since emotional disturbances affect other systems in the body. This is very serious.
Trust is crucial in shaking someone's denial, in motivating him or her to get help. Trust is also important once treatment for bipolar disorder starts. Through the eyes of a trustworthy friend or family member, a person with bipolar disorder can know when treatment is working -- when things are getting better, and when they're not. If your interest is sincere, you can be of great help to your friend or family member.
SOURCES: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth edition, Text Revision, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
The Nations Voice on Mental Illness.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).
American Psychiatric Association.
National Institute of Mental Health. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Bipolar Disorder Second Edition.
WebMD Medical Reference: "Bipolar Disorder."
Muller-Oerlinghausen, B. The Lancet, Jan. 19, 2002.
Kaufman, K. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, June, 2003.
Compton, M. Depression and Bipolar Disorder, ACP Medicine.