It’s actually intriguing how we use the term bi-polar to refer to people who we think are emotionally unstable, “crazy,” or those who are nice one minute and then mean the next. The crazy part is that in some ways, these aren’t completely inaccurate symptoms of bi-polar.
Bi-polar is defined by the DSM IV (The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders) as being diagnosed when a person has at least one episode of a manic or a hypomanic state or a Cyclothymic disorder (one in which there are mixed depressive states, highs and lows over a longer period of time). Manic and hypomanic states can precede or be followed by depressive states. A manic state can be defined as one in which a person is showing wild, apparently deranged, excitement and energy. What we often refer to as “highs”. A Hypomanic state is a more mild form of a manic episode. The major difference between the two is that a Hypomanic episode will last about 2 to 4 days and not be severe enough to cause marked impairment in social and occupational functioning, while a Manic will last at least a week and will be severe enough to cause marked impairment in daily functioning.
For the purpose of this post and the others regarding how to recognize when someone you love or yourself may be experiencing mental illness, I think that it is important to note that Bi-polar diagnosis are often missed because people struggle to admit the symptoms of their highs. They tend to do so because they are either afraid of the diagnosis or because they simply enjoy the highs of their life. They like the mania episodes. These episodes feel euphoric for them. When a family member or close friend is a part of the assessment process, the rate of accurate bi-polar diagnosis increases.
Some symptoms of Bi-Polar include but are not limited to the following: ( I have tried really hard to break these down so that they are easy to understand for even the most uneducated person).
- A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least 1 week for Manic and 4 days for Hypomanic (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary).
During the period of mood disturbance as mentioned above in number one, a person will have at least 3 of the following to a significant degree.
- Exaggerated or inflated Self-esteem or excessively grand or ambitious
- Decreased need for sleep
- More talkative than usual
- Insomnia or Excessive sleepiness nearly every day during the mood disturbance
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (appearing developmentally slow. Others will notice).
- Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing. Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant things.) Easily distracted or fascinated.
- Increase in goal-directed activity
- Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments).
9. The symptoms of Bi-polar must not be the effect of a substance such as alcohol or drugs and must not be due to a general medical condition.
10. A person may also have a bi-polar disorder when they are experiencing a series of highs and lows over a longer period of time. (i.e. showing clear depressive symptoms over a period of time followed by normal functioning, followed by another depressive state).
The thing about a Bi-polar diagnosis is that if severe enough, it will require hospitalization; However, just because there is not a perceived need for hospitalization, does not mean that one is not bi-polar. Above, I have listed some very basics that I pray will help you to recognize when yourself for someone you love may be experiencing symptoms of bi-polar and may need to see a mental health professional.
The problem with many mental illnesses is that we tend to normalize feelings and functioning that is not meant to be normalized. If left untreated, Bi-polar disorder can cause Poor judgment, risky behaviors, irreparable damage to relationships (personal and professional), job loss, business failure, financial ruin, alcohol and drug binges, legal problems, self harm, and subsequent and consequential depressive episodes and increased risk of suicide.
Its in the best interest of yourself and the ones you love to recognize when you may be experiencing bi-polar symptoms and seek help. Here are some ways that you can seek help if you think yourself or someone you love may have bi-polar disorder and also ways that you can begin the conversation with someone you think may be bi-polar:
- Let them know that you are genuinely concerned about their well-being and that you want them to be okay. Let them know that not seeking treatment may lead to increased mood disturbances and more severe mood disturbances.
- Know that many people have bi-polar disorder and a great deal of research has been done on how to treat it.
- The best and most effective way to treat bi-polar disorder at this current time, is medication.
- If you or someone else is in any type of danger, call 911 immediately.
- If you are someone you love is having a clear manic episode, but are not in any type of foreseeable danger, seek medical attention immediately. You can doing this by going to your local hospital. If they are not equipped to handle mental illness, they will be able to get you to the proper facility.
- If you think you may be or someone you love, may be bi-polar, but are not having a manic episode or there is no perceived need for immediate hospitalization, you can start to seek help by calling your insurance company and finding out what mental health services your insurance policy may cover. Your insurance carrier can also give you a list of medical professionals that can provide services that they will cover.
- If your insurance does not cover mental illness or if you do not have insurance, there are still some options for mental health care. I would encourage you to google free mental health clinics in your area.
- Hotlines have also become popular in dealing with mental illnesses, there are suicide prevention hotlines as well as crisis text hotlines that can offer assistance. A few of my favorite hotlines to recommend are as follows: Crisis Text Line: text “CONNECT” to 741741; National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 1-800-950-NAMI (6264); Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357); National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (1-800-273-8255)
Before I end this post, I also want to offer you an online test that I think is a pretty good starting point to determine if you are bi-polar. While this test is definitely NOT to be used as a substitute for a proper professional diagnosis, if answered truthfully, you can get a good idea of whether or not you need to seek further help. This test can be found at the following link:
Battling mental illness of any kind can be a challenge. Trust me, I understand that the struggle is definitely sometimes real, but the goal is to overcome every mental encounter. By paying attention to changes within ourselves and paying attention to the actions and behaviors of those around us, we are much more likely to succeed in battling mental illness. Do you know someone who may have Bi-polar Disorder?
- DSM IV