10 Facts About Bipolar Disorder

My name is Joshua, and I suffer from bipolar disorder. I wouldn’t recommend this as an introduction at a party.

Mental health is talked about a lot these days in society, and this makes me a very happy young man indeed. The stigma of it has followed people around for many years, rendering our ability to talk openly and freely about it. Thanks to organisations such as Mind, Time To Change and DBSA, it is being understood by more and more people every day.

There are many different types of mental illnesses. Schizophrenia. Borderline personality disorder. Bulimia nervosa. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the list can go on. Now, discussing them is a bit like eating your vegetables as a kid. You didn’t really want to eat them, but it was necessary. I don’t think anyone honestly wants to confront mental illnesses, because like cancer or impending death, it can be quite a daunting subject. How do you bring it up? Will you say the wrong thing if the shit hits the fan? Where do you even begin?

The mental disorder I am most familiar with is bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed at 22 after a long and difficult road through various mental health experts. It’s a very hard illness to live with, but it’s bearable. And to make things easier to digest, I’m going to break it down into ten simple bullet points.


1. Bipolar disorder is characterised by periods of mania and depression

Manic episodes make the patient feel instances of elevation and euphoria, leaving them often feeling invincible – yes, you can spend £1000 on that beautiful TV, and fuck the consequences, yes, let’s go and skinny dip in that sea despite the fact that there’s a thunderstorm, oh, and what’s that, a party at the Hilton Hotel? Fuck getting dressed, let’s get on it! – and then there’s the depressive episodes, which have the entirely opposite effect – ‘I tried opening a tin of beans and couldn’t. I’m worthless. My future is a wreck. I’m going to hide in this cupboard and never, ever come back out, because I couldn’t open that tin of beans.’


2. There are three types of bipolar disorder

There is type I, in which the sufferer usually experiences episodes of mania and depression in cycles of one week periods. Then, there is type II – which is my diagnosis – where the periods of depression outweigh the manic cycles, and the mania is termed as ‘hypomania’, meaning the highs are less extreme. Lastly, there is cyclothymia, which is a milder form of the disorder, but the fastest cycling, hence the name.

(Oh yeah, there’s also bipolar disorder not otherwise specified. Don’t you just love that? ‘e can’t be arsed giving you a proper label so have this one.’ Wankers.)


3. This is what’s called the ‘bipolar spectrum’

No two cases of bipolar disorder are the same. It’s as vast and variable as Ditto from Pokemon – look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’ll totally be worth it – and that’s what makes it so hard to diagnose. Some people ‘episodes’, as they’re termed, can last for days, others weeks, other months, and some sufferers may even go for years without an incident serious enough to warrant a hospital visit. And then there are others who are at the hospital so often they’re on the Christmas party list. As I said, it’s variable.


4. Bipolar was originally termed as ‘manic depression’

The name was changed by medical professionals mainly to highlight the differences between the fundamentals of ‘depression’. Mania is the defining feature of bipolar disorder; it’s what distinguishes it from recurrent depressive disorder.


5. Both genetic and environmental factors play a role in the disorder

However, genetic influences are believed to account for around 60-80% of the risk of developing the disorder, which means if you happen to have the disorder and you get shit from your parents, refer them to this whilst maintaining The Stare Of Hollow Judgement.


6.Medication is the most common treatment

However, psychosocial therapy and other such alternative treatments can be used for prevention and recovery purposes, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, and various forms of physical and verbal meditation.


7. Stephen Fry has bipolar disorder

As does Catherine Zeta Jones, Tom Fletcher of McFly fame, and Jean Claude Van Damme. All of these celebrities have spoken openly about living with the disorder; Fry spoke about it at length in his 2006 BBC documentary Secret Life Of A Manic Depressive.


8. The British secret intelligent agency, SIS, doesn’t accept job applications from bipolar sufferers



9. Bipolar disorder isn’t always portrayed fantastically on TV

Anyone remember Stacey Slater on EastEnders? What a load of bollocks that was. Eh, at least they tried I suppose.


10. There is currently no cure for bipolar disorder

However, thanks to medication and the support of doctors, family, friends and otherwise, people with bipolar disorder can live full, satisfying and productive lives.


Bipolar disorder is probably one of more difficult mental illness to really pin down and get a deeper understanding off, due to the spectrum being so vast and questionable. Hopefully this has given a little more of an insight into this strange and often singular world.

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