“When I am hyper, I’m the life of the party, everyone is my friend and there isn’t anyone I won’t talk to about anything….1” This is just ONE of the scenarios experienced by someone with bipolar I disorder. Irritability, anger, frustration, elation, energetic, apathetic, reckless, aggressive, hopeless, impulsive, delusional, depressed, suicidal. All of these adjectives can be felt by someone with bipolar I within a short space of time and sometimes a mix of mania and depressive symptoms at the SAME time.
It’s impossible to know how it feels to have Bipolar I disorder unless you have the condition. The best we can do as physicians, friends or family involved with someone with bipolar I is to listen, learn and try to understand.
Thankfully, there are lots of additional resources to help us do this. Videos and blogs on the Internet, where people vividly describe their experiences of living with bipolar I disorder. Our section ‘Patient Perspectives’ includes patient videos which clearly portray the ups and downs of living with the condition as well as some ideas on how friends, family and physicians can better manage the condition. Attorney Terri Cheney who has lived with bipolar since childhood encourages doctors to ask patients something as simple as: “Tell me where it hurts,” to help them to open up and touch upon how they really feel. (Click here to watch Terri Cheney talking about bipolar.)
Like talking to someone with cancer or heart disease, it’s vital that we don’t define the person by their condition; it’s one part of them, and one part only. And just as a patient with another disease needs support and treatment to be the best that they can be, so does someone with a mental health issue.
We have a battle on our hands against the demon stigma. It’s not a new one but ongoing and has yet to be won. Thankfully we have motivated advocates and champions who tirelessly endeavour to educate the world about the facts, not the fiction, and there are a lot of myths surround various mental conditions.
Upcoming is World Bipolar Day (WBD), which falls on the 30th March. Through international collaboration the goal of WBD is to bring the world population information about bipolar disorders that will educate and improve sensitivity towards the illness.
And with the right messages, will come an increase in early diagnosis of bipolar I disorder which means relief and support for those who need it, sooner rather than later. As well as the fear and torment of unpredictable highs and lows, there is also the very real risk of suicide. Even for those who have sought care, up to half are likely to attempt suicide at some point.2,3 Read our piece on suicide which offers insight into the influences behind peaks and troughs in suicide which can help psychiatrists to be particularly alert to the warning signs at times of highest risk.
Bettering the lives of patients and carers living with bipolar I disorder by changing perceptions is a journey we are committed to and over the coming months this website will continue to be refreshed with new articles, conference reports, videos and data. We look forward to sharing this with you and welcome your feedback.
Bipolar I disorder doesn’t have to be overwhelming, with the right treatment plan, patients should be able to live a stable and happy life.