Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have made a lot of news lately outside of their usual realm. Kanye’s recent presidential bid and mention of bipolar disorder diagnosis has prompted many people to search their own minds for what they thought bipolar meant, and realized that while the word is used casually, actually lending its definition is difficult.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder goes by a few different names, the exact definitions of which are slightly different. An identical term for bipolar disorder which is a little more descriptive is manic-depressive disorder, which is the essence of what this state of mind is characterized by. Mania, which can exist on its own, is a mental state that has periods of a rush of euphoric energy, delusions, and overactivity. A person who experiences what is called a “manic episode” can often go days without sleep, will have reckless or extremely confident behavior, and will have delusions of grandeur, such as understanding a worldwide problem’s solution or coming up with an invention previously never thought of. The people in manic states will frequently talk very fast (called “pressured speech”), will interrupt, and will have a constant flow of new thoughts that they may or may not explain all the way.
What qualifies as a manic episode?
The criteria from a medical standpoint for a manic episode is that it must last at least one week or require hospitalization. However, in the real world, this may not be completely apparent, and a subtype exists known as a hypomanic episode that can be milder (either not lasting as long or not as obvious).
The depressive part of the manic-depressive disorder is like any other diagnosis of depression. It will usually last more than two weeks, and it is marked by the inability to experience pleasure in everyday life, slowed motor functions, loss of interest, sleep problems (depressed people often will either sleep longer or wake up early in the morning even though they desire more rest), and decreased appetite. The hallmark of bipolar disorder which differs from both mania and depression is that it can have both mental states, and a person can swing back and forth between them.
What are the categories of bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is divided into two categories: Bipolar I and Bipolar II. Bipolar I will be diagnosed in a person with a manic episode either requiring hospitalization or lasting greater than 1 week. A depressive episode or mindset does not necessarily have to be present for a diagnosis of Bipolar I. Bipolar II, on the other hand, is characterized more by a consistent depressive state, with periods of hypomanic episodes (those episodes lasting less than 1 week, and not as impairing). There is a rare version as well-known as a cyclothymic disorder, which is a very mild alternating between manic and depressive states over a long period of time, usually years, that is not severe enough for either diagnosis of bipolar.
Why is it important to get diagnosed?
The reason a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is important is that the medication for such a state differs from that of other mental health conditions. While antidepressants work very well for a typical depression, these pharmaceuticals may make a bipolar patient worse by pushing them into a manic episode. Thus, they use a different form of medication, known as mood stabilizers, which are effective at reducing/eliminating the impairment of this condition. These need to be prescribed by a psychiatrist after diagnosis.
How many people live with bipolar disorder?
It is estimated by the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) that up to 4.4% of adults will experience bipolar disorder throughout their lifetime, with the statistics slightly favoring women as being more common. It is important to receive an accurate diagnosis, as family education of what this person’s mental state is like can go a long way in understanding their actions and helping them lead normal lives. Additionally, bipolar patients have a higher risk of suicide, and that information should be known by those close to them. Medical advancements have come a long way in understanding this condition, and with proper treatment, life has a markedly higher chance of being better.