Man With Bipolar Disorder Discusses The ‘Major’ Effects Of ‘Rollercoaster’ Condition
Despite bipolar disorder affecting around 45 million people across the globe, a lack of education still surrounds the mental health disorder.
To many, bipolar disorder is simply when a person suffers with mood swings – but there’s much more to it than meets the eye and it can prove to have detrimental affects on someone’s life.
With today, March 30, marking World Bipolar Day, we spoke to someone living with bipolar disorder about what it’s like and how they cope with it.
There are three different types of bipolar disorder: type 1, type 2 and cyclothymia. Explaining the difference between the three types, Caroline Harper, Specialist Mental Health Nurse at Bupa UK, said, ‘Whilst all types of bipolar disorder are characterised by episodes of extreme mood, there are different types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar 1 and 2 disorders are more common than the other types of bipolar disorder, and the main difference is the severity of bipolar episodes.’
Cyclothymia is a milder form of the mental illness, but Caroline says that ‘many people do not realise there’s anything wrong or want to seek help.’
Philip Horrod suffered a major work-stress related burnout in 2013 and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2017. Between 2013 and 2017, Philip struggled with mental health and experienced periods of depression and mania as well as having suicidal thoughts.
Discussing this difficult time before his diagnosis, Philip told UNILAD, ‘Due to my burnout, I was initially off work completely for over six months. Despite eventually being offered another job to return to with the company I worked for, it wasn’t possible for me to return. The main problem at that time was that, as the hypomania period subsided, I then experienced a complete reversal of symptoms.’
‘This led me to sink into the depths of depression (a horrendous experience I would never want anyone else to ever have to go through). This included having severe paranoia, insomnia, as well as constant suicidal thoughts over a period of about six months or so.’
Despite seeking medical help and having the support of his friends and family, these episodes of mania and depression continued leading to Philip trialling different types of medication to help him. Eventually he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and trialled more medication specifically for the disorder.
Four years on, Philip has seen a ‘gradual improvement’ in his mental health since finding the right medication for him. He explained, ‘Thankfully the right balance of the right medications was eventually identified which had a huge benefit in helping alleviate my ongoing symptoms. I have been taking a particular combination of medications ever since and have experienced a gradual improvement in my mental wellbeing over this period, especially over the last few years.’
According to Philip, healthcare professionals are unsure if he’s been bipolar all his life or if his 2013 burnout trigged the condition.
Talking to UNILAD about how bipolar can affect someone’s life, Philip explained:
Being bipolar can have an ongoing detrimental effect on someone’s life, each and every day, particularly while it remains undiagnosed and untreated. There are still major effects even after diagnosis, until such time as the right balance of medications can be found, which work for someone and can help them with their various bipolar symptoms.
As with lots of medical conditions, part of the problem associated with trying to find the right medications for a particular bipolar person is that everyone responds differently and therefore has to find exactly what works for them personally.
He continued to say that each day a person doesn’t endure the symptoms of the mental health illness is a ‘blessing’ and describing bipolar disorder as a ‘personal rollercoaster journey’.
Discussing the stigma that bipolar is simply mood swings, Philip said, ‘Bipolar is not at all like a simple feeling or mood which someone might experience in response to the normal ups and downs we all have in life. Bipolar symptoms can be really severe and dramatic, at either end of the manic/depression spectrum.’
With bipolar, you jump headlong into a manic episode, or you sink into a seemingly never-ending depression, both of which affect your life completely, for the whole time while that particular symptom is being experienced. Each could also last for weeks, months, or even years in some instances, so a bipolar life can change dramatically and quickly, or have prolonged periods of change, depending on what type of bipolar someone has.
While frequent, dramatic change in moods is part of bipolar disorder, Caroline Harper from Bupa UK explained that experiencing mood swings doesn’t always mean you have the condition.
She explained, ‘Mood swings are a normal part of life, and changes to our mood will depend on situations we’re faced with. Many of us will experience mood swings either daily or weekly, especially if you’re in a stressful or challenging experience.’
Previously referred to as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterised by persistent, frequent, and extreme changes in mood, which can swing from an extreme high (mania) to an extreme low (depression). Unlike simple mood swings, a bipolar mood episode can last for several weeks – or even longer.
If you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, something which reportedly affects one in 50 people in the UK, Caroline gave four tips on how to deal with it. She advised to learn to understand your moods so can you manage a bipolar episode; to find techniques that help you personally; to learn to manage everyday stresses to prevent them triggering a bipolar episode and to seek medical support.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.