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About Bipolar Disorder-In Conjunction With My Pepsi Refresh/Robyn’s Online World Post

As promised, here is some more in-depth information about Bipolar Disorder. Please read this and educate yourself on how to support a loved one with this condition, as well as what warning signs and symptoms to look out for. Also, please visit my Helping Bipolar Children and Teens post and learn how YOU can help via the Pepsi Refresh Project. All it takes is a simple vote to make a difference.  Instructions for voting can be found in that post. Thanks to Robyn over at Robyn’s Online World for alerting fellow bloggers to this project, and for sharing your experiences as a mom to a teen who suffers from Bipolar.


I recently had an experience I did not understand with someone I care about. It came out of left field and took me completely off-guard, and I handled it completely wrong. Of course, I didn’t even know I was handling it incorrectly. My intentions were good, but there was one important factor I forgot to consider that actually changes the rules of interaction significantly. You see, the person I had a falling out with is one of millions that suffer from bipolar disorder, which when left untreated, can cause many, many problems in relationships, in the workplace, and in one’s personal day to day life. This disorder has even led to unnecessary suicides. It is also a disorder that people THINK they know about, but more than likely do not. I thought I understood it, but I have been doing some research, and I found I knew very little about this condition, and due to that fact, was probably doing more harm than good, albeit unintentionally. This relationship is over, and could never be the same again. But I do feel that the loss of a friendship could have been prevented if I had only known what signs to be on the lookout for.

The reason I am writing this post is because I wouldn’t want anyone else to make the mistakes I made in handling things with this loved one. I thought I was helping by doing things one way, when really, I should have recognized a cry for help. A plea for support. I did not understand. In my research, I have learned that many, many people who suffer from bipolar disorder have a much more difficult time during the holidays. There is all the added stress of the season in general, with scheduling, shopping, and the general winter time blues that so many of us can be prone to. I will be listing some common symptoms and also some ways that you can help someone who suffers from this condition. A little understanding can do a world of good, and this condition is often misunderstood. Someone suffering from bipolar, or manic depression, is not crazy. But they do process and handle things in a different way, and require extra consideration when dealing with them during their highs and lows. Dealing with someone who is bipolar is much like walking on a tight rope or in a mine field. A little understanding of the condition is essential at being a support to someone who is bipolar. And please remember, if a loved one lashes out during an episode of depression, mania, or even a mixed episode, this is behavior they cannot control and they may do and say things that they would never do or say while in a balanced state. It is also not uncommon for someone suffering from bipolar disorder to black out and become violent towards themselves and/or others. Do not take it personally, or try to argue with someone who is having an episode. It will only make it worse. Chances are, their problem has nothing at all to do with you, but with their own feelings of loneliness, depression, and hopelessness. These feelings are  often manifested by aggression, anger, and overly critical behavior. If you keep in mind that it’s not YOU, it’s not THEM, it is their mental illness doing the talking, it will make it so much easier to cope.Please, if you know anyone with this condition, please do your best to show them love and support. It can make a huge difference in someone’s life, and just the reassurance that you care will do a world of good.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder:

(Provided by helpguide.org. A GREAT website with a wealth of information.)

Bipolar disorder can look very different in different people. The symptoms vary widely in their pattern, severity, and frequency. Some people are more prone to either mania or depression, while others alternate equally between the two types of episodes. Some have frequent mood disruptions, while others experience only a few over a lifetime.

There are four types of mood episodes in bipolar disorder:mania, hypomania, depression, and mixed episodes. Each type of bipolar disorder mood episode has a unique set of symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of mania

In the manic phase of bipolar disorder, feelings of heightened energy, creativity, and euphoria are common. People experiencing a manic episode often talk a mile a minute, sleep very little, and are hyperactive. They may also feel like they’re all-powerful, invincible, or destined for greatness. They may want to “save the world” in some way, and get down and defeated when the reality hits that they cannot.

But while mania feels good at first, it has a tendency to spiral out of control. People often behave recklessly during a manic episode: gambling away savings, engaging in inappropriate  activity, or making foolish business investments, for example. They may also become angry, irritable, and aggressive–picking fights, lashing out when others don’t go along with their plans, and blaming anyone who criticizes their behavior. Some people even become delusional or start hearing voices.

Hypomania symptoms

Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. People in a hypomanic state feel euphoric, energetic, and productive, but they are able to carry on with their day-to-day lives and they never lose touch with reality. To others, it may seem as if people with hypomania are merely in an unusually good mood. However, hypomania can result in bad decisions that harm relationships, careers, and reputations. In addition, hypomania often escalates to full-blown mania or is followed by a major depressive episode.

Common signs and symptoms of mania include:

  • Feeling unusually “high” and optimistic OR extremely irritable
  • Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs about one’s abilities or powers
  • Sleeping very little, but feeling extremely energetic
  • Talking so rapidly that others can’t keep up
  • Racing thoughts; jumping quickly from one idea to the next
  • Highly distractible, unable to concentrate
  • Impaired judgment and impulsiveness
  • Acting recklessly without thinking about the consequences
  • Delusions and hallucinations (in severe cases)

Signs and symptoms of bipolar depression

In the past, bipolar depression was lumped in with regular depression. But a growing body of research suggests that there are significant differences between the two, especially when it comes to recommended treatments. Most people with bipolar depression are not helped by antidepressants. In fact, there is a risk that antidepressants can make bipolar disorder worse–triggering mania or hypomania, causing rapid cycling between mood states, or interfering with other mood stabilizing drugs.

Despite many similarities, certain symptoms are more common in bipolar depression than in regular depression. For example, bipolar depression is more likely to involve irritability, guilt, unpredictable mood swings, and feelings of restlessness. People with bipolar depression also tend to move and speak slowly, sleep a lot, and gain weight. In addition, they are more likely to develop psychotic depression–a condition in which they’ve lost contact with reality–and to experience major disability in work and social functioning.

Common symptoms of bipolar depression include:

  • Feeling hopeless, sad, or empty.
  • Irritability
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Physical and mental sluggishness
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Sleep problems
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Signs and symptoms of a mixed episode

A mixed episode of bipolar disorder features symptoms of both mania or hypomania and depression. Common signs of a mixed episode include depression combined with agitation, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, distractibility, and racing thoughts. This combination of high energy and low mood makes for a particularly high risk of suicide.

Tips for coping with bipolar disorder in the family or circle of friends:

  • Accept your loved one’s limits – People with bipolar disorder can’t control their moods. They can’t just snap out of a depression or get a hold of themselves during a manic episode. Neither depression nor mania can be overcome through self-control, willpower, or reasoning. Telling a person to “Stop acting crazy” or “Look on the bright side” won’t help.
  • Accept your own limits. You can’t rescue a person with bipolar disorder, nor can you force someone to take responsibility for getting better. You can offer support, but ultimately, recovery is in the hands of the person with the illness.
  • Reduce stress – Stress makes bipolar disorder worse, so try to find ways to reduce stress in your family member’s life. Ask how you can help and volunteer to take over some of the person’s responsibilities if needed. Establishing and enforcing a daily routine— with regular times for getting up, having meals, and going to bed—can also reduce family stress.
  • Communicate – Open and honest communication is essential to coping with bipolar disorder in the family or circle of friends. Share your concerns in a loving way, ask the person how he or she is feeling, and make an effort to truly listen—even if you disagree with your loved one or don’t relate to what’s being said.

Supporting a person with bipolar disorder

What you can say that helps:

  • You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
  • I understand you have a real illness and that’s what causes these thoughts and feelings.
  • You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
  • I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
  • You are important to me. Your life is important to me.

Coping with mania and depression: Tips for family and friends

If relapse can’t be prevented, there are things you can do to cope during a manic or depressive episode.

  • Don’t take bipolar symptoms personally. When in the midst of a bipolar episode, people often say or do things that are hurtful or embarrassing. When manic, they may be reckless, cruel, critical, and aggressive. When depressed, they may be rejecting, irritable, hostile, and moody. It’s hard not to take such behaviors personally, but try to remember that they’re symptoms of a mental illness, not the result of selfishness or immaturity.
  • Be prepared for destructive behaviors. When manic or depressed, people with bipolar disorder may behave in destructive or irresponsible ways. Planning ahead for how to handle such behavior can help. When your loved one is well, negotiate a treatment contract that gives you advance approval for protecting him or her when symptoms flare up. Agree on specific steps you’ll take, such as removing credit cards or car keys, going together to the doctor, or taking charge of household finances.
  • Know what to do in a crisis. It’s important to plan ahead for times of crisis so you can act quickly and effectively with it occurs. Having a crisis plan can help. Make sure to include a list of emergency contact information for doctors, therapists, and other loved ones who will help. Also include the address and phone number of the hospital you will take the person to if necessary.
  • Call 911 in an emergency. If a person with bipolar disorder is suicidal or violent, don’t try to handle the situation alone. If you’re worried that your loved one may hurt you, get to safety and then call the police. If the person is suicidal, don’t leave him or her alone. Call 911 and stay with the person until an ambulance arrives.

Supporting someone who is manic

  • Spend time with the person. People who are manic often feel isolated from other people. Spending even short periods of time with them helps. If the person has a lot of energy, walk together, which allows the person to keep on the move but share your company.
  • Answer questions honestly. However, do not argue or debate with a person during a manic episode. Avoid intense conversation.
  • Don’t take any comments personally. During periods of high energy, a person often says and does things that he or she would not usually say or do, including focusing on and exaggerating the negative aspects of others. If needed, stay away from the person and avoid arguments.
  • Prepare easy-to-eat foods and drinks (such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, cheese crackers, and juices), because it is difficult for the person to sit down to a meal during periods of high energy.
  • Avoid subjecting the person to a lot of activity and stimulation. It is best to keep surroundings as quiet as possible.
  • Allow the person to sleep whenever possible. During periods of high energy, sleeping is difficult and short naps may be taken throughout the day. Sometimes the person feels rested after only 2 to 3 hours of sleep.

These are all wonderful tips that I wish I had known before. So please, if someone you love suffers from this disorder, please be there for them. Don’t let them feel alone. I didn’t know how to help appropriately, and it ended my relationship with someone I care about. I didn’t realize that I was getting a cry for support, and I felt attacked. But in reality, it wasn’t about me at all. It was a symptom of this often debilitating condition, and I didn’t even realize it. But if you take the time to learn about the life and thought processes of someone who is bipolar, it is possible to make a difference. Make sure to check on them…Invite them to join in activities. Don’t let them feel isolated, and show you care in the ways they need to be shown. If they tell you they need space, DO NOT assume that this is actually what they want. Check in with them and don’t allow them to feel isolated. Especially during the holidays, when the suicide rates increase.  Compassion and understanding is key, and never be afraid to show you care.

***I am NOT a psychiatrist. Just someone who has been indirectly affected  by this disorder and wants other friends and family members of people suffering from manic depression to understand the warning signs and symptoms in their loved ones so they can provide the best support system possible for them. This is a complex disorder, and is painful for not only the person suffering from it, but for those who love and care about them, as well. All symptoms and recommendations come from the above listed reputable medical website. Like I said, I do not have a PhD or an MD. I’m just a person who cares. ***


December 23, 2010 - Posted by | My Story

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