March 30th is World Bipolar Day! Every year, World Bipolar Day is celebrated on the birthday of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh is widely known as one of the most influential artists in the history of Western art… but did you know that he was posthumously diagnosed with Bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder can be a life-long mental health condition that affects how you feel and can cause your moods to change drastically. Bipolar disorder may result in episodes of depression and elation or mania. Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be severe and affect areas of your life, such as your health, work, school, and relationships.
World Bipolar Day serves to advocate, educate, promote the spread of information, and eliminate the stigma of bipolar disorders.
Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
All humans have a regular rhythm of ups and downs, but individuals with bipolar disorder will often have extreme highs and lows. They may experience episodes of intense energy called manic episodes, followed by extreme lows called depressive episodes.
Because of the progress in mental illness diagnosis and awareness, some individuals may misdiagnose themselves or assume they need treatment for anxiety or depression.
Bipolar disorder is different than depression or anxiety. Like many mental illnesses, it has the ability to wreak havoc on relationships at work and home if not addressed. Here are some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
When individuals with bipolar experience a manic episode, the feeling is more than a general high. They may have out-of-their-control moments of emotional height and speed that they cannot slow down on their own. A few of the symptoms include:
- Irrational feelings of happiness when things aren’t going well
- A constant flow of new ideas
- Random mental movement from one thought to the next
- Struggle to focus on a single topic
- Easily distracted
- Making big, snap decisions without adequate consideration
Individuals in extreme episodes of mania may even do things they would never normally do. They may go on a shopping spree and spend lots of money, have casual sex with several people, use alcohol or drugs, gamble, and generally make decisions that are out of their ordinary character. However, not all manic episodes will be extreme. Some individuals will have hypomania, which is a manic episode with much milder symptoms.
Depression can feel all-encompassing to the person experiencing it. People experiencing depression may feel deep feelings of sadness or struggle to get out of bed. Here are some depression symptoms that individuals with bipolar might experience.
- Less energy than normal
- Regular feelings of fatigue
- Hopeless or negative feelings
- Loss of interest in things they love
- Difficulty remembering, concentrating, and making decisions
- Feelings of irritability and restlessness
- A break in sleep patterns such as sleeping too much or not being able to fall asleep
- Overeating or undereating
- Unintentional weight gain or weight loss
- Thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide
Extreme cases of bipolar disorder can lead to psychotic episodes. Individuals with bipolar disorder may experience hallucinations or believe things that aren’t true.
Bipolar Disorder 1 vs Bipolar Disorder 2
Bipolar disorder has two categories: bipolar 1 and bipolar 2.
Medical professionals diagnose bipolar disorders based on an individual’s episode cycle and intensity. The difference in types of bipolar disorders lies in the severity of the episodes.
Individuals with bipolar 1 experience stronger manic episodes. They may make impulsive decisions, have racing thoughts they cannot control, and may often require hospitalization if untreated. Individuals with bipolar 2 may experience hypomanic episodes, which means they have milder manic episodes than an individual with bipolar 1.
In contrast, an individual with bipolar 1 may not experience a severe depressive episode. Individuals with bipolar 2, however, do experience major depressive episodes.
Because individuals with bipolar 2 do not experience extreme manic episodes, medical professionals sometimes misdiagnose them with depression instead of bipolar disorder.
World Bipolar Day
Many individuals do not understand the symptoms or severity of bipolar disorder. World Bipolar Day serves to spread awareness and bring essential understanding about this disorder.
You can participate in World Bipolar Day by doing a few things.
- Use your social media by sharing bipolar disorder facts or changing your avatar to a green bipolar disorder ribbon
- Wear a green bipolar disorder ribbon, bracelet, wristband, or pin to show solidarity
- Spend time with a loved one who experiences bipolar disorder
- Donate to research and support groups for bipolar disorder
Any one of these activities will help spread information about bipolar disorder. With more information comes more awareness, thus lessening the stigma of mental illness.
Unlike physical illness, mental illness does not always appear evident to the eye. For example, if you break your leg, it isn’t likely to go unnoticed. People can see you are in pain, need help, and they might even offer to take you to the hospital to get help. Mental illness is not always as evident.
When you know the symptoms and signs of mental illnesses, it is easier to identify when people around you are struggling. World Bipolar Awareness Day spreads the necessary awareness so thar individuals can begin talking about bipolar disorder, and all mental health conditions, with more understanding.
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