“My life is like a roller coaster.” If they didn’t know better, ride lovers might be tempted to think bipolar disorder would be fun.
After all, without high and low points, life would be flat, literally and figuratively speaking. But if you live with bipolarity, you know the roller coaster can turn into a nightmare.
Of course, mood swings are a fact of life: the happiness and excitement you feel when you fall in love can turn into pain and sorrow if you lose the person you love. These are predictable reactions.
Bipolarity is a whole other matter.
It’s when you’re stuck on a roller coaster and can’t get off. It’s when you find yourself at the summit of Mount Everest while the people around you are on Mont Tremblant. It’s when you feel enslaved to mood cycles that are constantly ebbing and flowing like the tides.
Extremely rapid or severe mood swings may be due to bipolarity.
The peaks are very pleasurable. You feel limitless as your thoughts race at lightning speed. But eventually, you come back down—and the descent can be very painful.
Without help, it can be hard to control bipolarity. It comes and goes.
Putting a word to the experience is already a step in the right direction.
what are the most common bipolar disorders?
Understanding that you live with bipolarity is the first step. The second is knowing which bipolar disorder you’re living with. Maybe you’ve already been diagnosed, or maybe you haven’t.
Living with bipolarity often means you’re fluctuating between a depressive episode (sleep problems; appetite issues; loss of energy, interest and pleasure; decreased concentration, etc.) and a manic or hypomanic episode (heightened self-esteem or ideas delusions of grandeur, feeling like you’re bursting with ideas, restlessness, excessive pleasure, etc.).
Your depressive and manic episodes may last anywhere from a few days to several months.
sometimes episodes are called phases:
- Long cycles if you have a depressive episode and a manic episode that last several months each;
- Rapid cycles if you have at least four different episodes of depression or mania (or hypomania) per year, lasting several weeks each; or
- Mixed episodes if you feel symptoms of depression and mania on most days during the same period.
there are 3 types of bipolar disorder:
bipolar I disorder
Alternation between major depressive episodes and manic episodes. Note that some people living with bipolar I disorder will experience manic episodes, but not depressive episodes.
bipolar II disorder
Presence of at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode (less severe manic episode).
Small, less intense cycles of ups and downs.
One of the most clearly established risk factors for bipolar disorder is a family history of bipolar disorder.
what are the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder?
during periods of mania or hypomaniae
During periods of mania or hypomania, in addition to an elevated or irritable mood and increased energy or activity, you experience several of the following symptoms (at least three or four):
- Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
- Less need for sleep
- More talkative or talking non-stop
- Racing thoughts or the feeling of having too many ideas
- Easily distracted—unable to focus
- Upsurge in social, professional, academic or sexual activity, or psychomotor agitation
- Risky activities (shopping, unsafe sexual practices, unreasonable financial investments, etc.)
In the case of mania, the symptoms are present for at least a week, while in the case of hypomania, they last at least four days in a row. In mania, occupational or social functioning is significantly affected, and the symptoms may require hospitalization.
In hypomania, the episode is not so severe as to significantly affect professional or social functioning.
during a period of depression
During a period of depression, for a period of two weeks or more, in addition to a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, you experience several of the following symptoms (at least five):
- Appetite problems with weight loss or gain
- Sleep problems (insomnia or hypersomnia)
- Psychomotor slowdown or agitation
- Feeling guilty or diminished
- Decreased ability to concentrate, think, or make decisions
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
how do I live
It is possible to live with bipolarity and still have a good quality of life. One way to do this is to have the right tools to guide you in your daily behavioural choices. Take back control of your mental health with self-management.
how can I help
a loved one who
is living with bipolarity?
It isn’t always easy to know what to do. But there are a few strategies to help a loved one regain control over their mental health, without compromising your own.
how can Relief
help me live
We offer a self-management workshop to help you live with bipolarity. The workshop includes strategies, tools and exercises to help adopt behaviours in order to reduce your symptoms, identify warning signs and prevent relapses.