The Effects of Bipolar Disorder on Everyday Life

March 30th of every year has been designated as World Bipolar Day. This day of observance was created thanks to an initiative by the partnership of several international organizations.¹

The aim of one of those organizations, the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, is to improve the lives of those with bipolar disorder through education, increased research, and better clinical care.²

March 30th was chosen as it is the birthday of the talented and influential Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after his death when there was a greater understanding of the condition.  

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder was documented as a condition over 2,000 years ago when Hippocrates mentioned the disorder in his writings. He noted that some people presented with extremes of mood that would swing from highly energized to incredibly low.³  The name comes from the fact that the mood swings are “polar” opposites, and not long ago it was called “manic depression.”

There are currently three types of bipolar disorder, and they all involve distinct changes in energy and activity level, as well as overall mood. The “up” phases include feelings of elation or irritability and a reduced need for sleep. The “down” phases are marked by depression symptoms such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of energy.⁴

The different types of bipolar are diagnosed based on the intensity of the symptoms and by how long they go on. Onset of symptoms usually occurs during the late teens and early twenties, and it is usually not diagnosed after the age of 40.⁵

Bipolar disorder is pretty common. Research shows that about one out of every one hundred people will be diagnosed with it at some point in their lifetime. The cause of bipolar disorder is not known at this point, though there is some research pointing to genetic markers or differences in brain structure. An episode can be triggered by an increase in stress, life changes, trauma, or drug use.⁵

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

During a depressive period, individuals with bipolar disorder may feel sad, hopeless, and irritable with low energy and a loss of interest in activities. Difficulty concentrating and suicidal thoughts may occur as well. People with bipolar disorder are more likely to seek help during a low phase.⁴

If someone you know or you are feeling suicidal, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Initially, a manic phase can offer some welcome relief from the darkness of depression. Mania is often described as feeling elated, full of energy, and self-important. It can also bring great new ideas, little need for sleep or food, and disastrous spending, risky behaviors, and poor decision-making. People having an episode of mania don’t usually realize that their behavior is out of character, and they may not be able to realize the harmful effects it is having on themselves and others.⁴

How to Reduce the Stigma of Bipolar Disorder

As stated earlier, bipolar disorder is not uncommon, and it is certainly not the fault of the people who have it or their families. It is not unusual to hear people with bipolar disorder referred to as being highly intelligent, sensitive, and creative. While these things are difficult to analyze, there has been some research that has confirmed these beliefs.⁶

Like any mental illness, bipolar disorder carries a lot of stigma. Films and books often portray people with bipolar disorder as unpredictable criminal types who are unable to live independently.

Negative ideas about bipolar disorder can be reduced through education. When people learn that bipolar is more of a medical condition and not caused by family issues, they become more positive and open about the condition.⁷

Since most people don’t realize just how many people have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, sharing information is the number one way to reduce stigma.

For the person with bipolar disorder, combating stigma starts within themselves. Knowing that your mental illness is just a small part of who you are and working to reduce harmful self-talk are important first steps.⁸

Stomp Out Stigma and Shame with #bipolartogether!

By spreading the message that having bipolar disorder is not something to be ashamed of, we can help to reduce the stigma. Share your “coming out” story and invite others into the conversation this World Bipolar Day.

Sharing your story can help educate others as well as bring light and love to other people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When you share the ways you practice strength each and every day, you are helping to reduce stigma and increase quality of life for all.

Balance Treatment Center Offers Resources and Support

Perhaps you have been wondering if you have bipolar disorder or maybe you have already been diagnosed. Here at Balance Treatment Centers, we have an approach that focuses on balancing moods using minimal medications. We also help you to work on any personal issues that may be making managing the symptoms more difficult. Contact us today to find out more.

The effects of bipolar disorder on everyday life can lead to disruption in your personal life as well as that of family members, but treatment can help. In a letter to his brother Theo, a nineteen-year-old Vincent van Gogh wisely said, “The beginning is perhaps more difficult than anything else, but keep heart, it will turn out all right.”⁹