Living with bipolar disorder

What are bipolar disorders?

Bipolar disorder, or bipolarity, is a chronic psychiatric illness which is part of mood disorders. Formerly called manic-depressive psychosis, bipolar disorder generates phases called Up and Down. Depressive periods and manic (or hypomanic) episodes alternate, interspersed with intervals of remission.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

During the intervals of remission, a bipolar person does not present any disorder that could suggest that he is suffering from any pathology. However, not all patients experience these respite periods. Some link the depressive and manic phases without intervals, sometimes oscillating between mania and depression several times in the same day. The symptoms of one and the other are radically different.

Symptoms of the manic or hypomanic phase

During a manic episode, one might think that everything is going (too) well for the bipolar person. These phases are characterized by a mood lift and we can distinguish a number of warning symptoms:

  • a pleasant feeling of overflowing with energy and creativity;
  • an exacerbated ease in social contacts;
  • a euphoric and elated state.

This is sometimes accompanied by a certain irritability. In the acute phase of the manic episode, there is a significant change in behavior with at least three of the following symptoms :

  • very intense professional, social or sexual activities, accompanied by a loss of inhibition;
  • an exaggerated and unrestrained increase in pleasurable activities, such as compulsive shopping;
  • an impression of power and heightened self-esteemeven megalo-maniacal thoughts;
  • carrying out multiple projects and activities without having the ability to focus on one of them;
  • a discontinuous need to communicate, accompanied by rapid speech that may become incoherent;
  • the absence of fatigue, the reduction of the need for sleep, even theonset of severe insomnia.

During a manic phase, the bipolar person loses control. A hypomanic phase follows the same pattern, but in a much more moderate way. This makes diagnosis more difficult, with the risk of not identify bipolar disorder yet very present, the consequences can be disastrous.

Symptoms of the depressive phase

A depressive phase is characterized by a mood swing. It is extremely difficult to tell the difference with a person who suffers from depression. We can observe warning signs of an acute attack:

  • persistent sadness accompanied by a feeling of emptiness;
  • loss of interest in any activity, including the most popular ones.

This degraded general state is accompanied byat least four of the following symptoms :

  • impaired sleep, insomnia or hypersomnia;
  • a deterioration in the relationship to food resulting in weight loss or weight gain;
  • inability to concentrate and make decisions;
  • the feeling of a slowed down life, of a reduction of energy, sometimes until a catatonic state;
  • a collapse of self-esteem with a strong sense of worthlessness.

These disorders can be accompanied by deadly thoughts, going as far as suicidal thoughts. The situation then presents a real danger, potentially meaning serious consequences for the life of the bipolar person.

How to live with bipolar disorder?

A bipolar person lives periods of intense suffering, his family and those around him as well. It all starts with the recognition and acceptance of the disease. This will allow appropriate medical care. A therapeutic follow-up, a healthy lifestyle and the support of those around you give good results.

1. Accept the doctor’s diagnosis and the care protocol for bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder usually appears between the ages of 15 and 25. Unfortunately, today the delay in diagnosis is of the order of 10 years. It is therefore essential to consult your doctor as soon as worrying symptoms appear. The latter will decide on the need to consult a psychiatrist, if necessary. The first reaction of patients with bipolarity is often denial, acceptance will be the cornerstone of support. The treatment of bipolar disorders is multidisciplinary and long-term. Medication administration mood regulators (mood stabilizers) is the first weapon against bipolarity.

2. Respect the treatment, taking medication and use the resources at your disposal

A regular medical monitoring makes it possible to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment and to adapt it to the evolution of the disease. In addition, psychological monitoring provides patients with the keys to understanding their condition. From then on, they will be able to consider with the therapist a strategy to improve their living conditions. For example, behavioral and cognitive therapy offers an excellent tool in the face of bipolarity. The therapist and patient identify symptoms together, warning signs and risk situations and their effects. The patient can then anticipate each manic or depressive phase. Many social and medico-social workers are able to complete this system.

3. Identify stressors to prevent the onset of an acute episode

Stress, in a reasonable dose, is a great engine of productivity and creativity for some. However, sudden, intense or prolonged stressful situations are particularly harmful for a bipolar person. It is therefore appropriate toavoid abrupt lifestyle changes. It is also necessary to avoid intense periods of work over a prolonged period. The same goes for the accumulation of heavy responsibilities or a succession of important short-term objectives. In summary, it is better avoid any situation likely to generate stress intense that the bipolar will not be able to handle.

4. Adopt a healthy lifestyle to reverse bipolar disorder

The fight against bipolar disorder requires good physical health and reassuring stability. Sleep, diet and even physical exercise are essential components of the therapeutic arsenal. They participate, in addition to the medical protocol, in strive for a normal existence.

  • Quality sleep : sleeping well, in sufficient quantity, prevents the appearance of new manic or depressive episodes. It is also better to avoid night activities and jet lags.
  • A healthy diet : eating well, preferably at set times, a varied and balanced diet contributes to good physical and mental health.
  • A physical activity : Doing daily exercise, according to your possibilities, helps to fight against stress. This also makes it possible to regulate any excess weight caused by a sedentary lifestyle or certain medications.
  • A rejection of addictions : avoiding all use of addictive substances limits the recurrence of the disease. Alcohol, tobacco and drugs promote the onset of acute attacks.

The environment plays an essential role in the fight against bipolar disorder. The family, father and mother, but also spouse and children for the bipolar person in a couple, can be ongoing support and a stability factor.

5. Prioritize daily social ties to preserve mental health

A person with bipolar disorder needs support. Apart from the doctor, the family and the entourage, many social and medico-social actors are able to help the patient. Social workers, educators, home helpers, facilitators or even discussion groups all have a role to play in the fight led by the patient. The attending physician is best placed to mobilize all resources provided by the health system.

Bipolar disorders in 4 questions

Bipolar disorder is a complex mental illness. They can cause severe damage to daily life. Here is frequently asked questions asked about this disabling disorder.

Can a bipolar person live without treatment?

Bipolar disorder is the second suicide disease, after anorexia nervosa. The risk of suicide increases over time, so the consequences can be very serious. Moreover, it is not necessary never stop treatment without doctor’s advice. Living without treatment with bipolar is like skydiving… without a parachute!

How to live normally with bipolar disorder?

To live normally, a bipolar person must rigorously follow their care protocol. There is no cure for bipolar disorder. The prescribed treatments stabilize the mood and prevent any relapse of the disease. Combined with a healthy lifestyle, they bring the desired stability and serenity.

Can a bipolar person love?

Without a doubt. But share the existence of a bipolar person is not “a long calm river”. Emotions can be exacerbated by periods of crisis, the feeling of love can undergo a “roller coaster” effect. Treatments stabilize human relationships.

Does a bipolar person lie?

Relatives of a bipolar person will invariably answer yes. However, the answer is not so simple. During a manic phase, one can notice distortions of reality in the patient. To date, no scientific study has shown a significant increase in lying with bipolarity.

Living with bipolar disorder