Speaking as someone living with Bipolar Disorder, I know how it can get overwhelming when asked to talk about one’s feelings. There are many reasons. First and foremost, large numbers of the general public still have a very myopic viewpoint with regards to the illness. Since a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, assumptions are quickly made, about the symptoms, course of therapy, etc
It is easy to distrust someone with Bipolar Disorder. The symptoms state unpredictability, so that can be dicey right? Well, mood swings cause a certain degree of uncertainty, but that does not mean we are perpetually unsure. There are other symptoms of Bipolar Disorder that need to be addressed with an open mind, to enable us to dispel some of the myths surrounding them. But in this blog post I try to tackle some of the possible symptoms of Bipolar Disorder that nobody likes to talk about.
During episodes, we can behave dangerously, be confrontational, and violent.
This is not true for all the episodes that a person might experience. Aggressive tendencies whilst common are typically seen in people who are at that moment experiencing an episode of strong dysphoric mania. This is the reason why sometimes, an incident can turn ugly. Sufferers have been known in the heat of the moment to seemingly exhibit super-human strength, punching through inanimate objects, or throwing chairs for example.
While the situation may seem grim and unmanageable, it is not. This needs to be managed quickly and efficiently. Prevention of mood swings is vital. It helps avert the dangerous, violent and aggressive behaviour. Families and loved one’s brush this under the carpet, and keep silent. Fear keeps them from opening up to people and expressing their feelings. This should not be the case. Someone who exhibits unnaturally violent behaviour, whether they are generally mild-mannered or not, should not be dismissed.
Bipolar Disorder can cause hallucinations and psychosis.
It is not uncommon, for someone in a manic or depressive cycle, to experience psychosis. Common in bipolar mania, it affects up to 70% of people, those who are experiencing a full-blown manic episode. Causing a break with reality, it causes loss of reasoning and may become a serious hindrance to treatment. It disrupts everything around you. Work, relationships, and everything else gets affected due to misconceptions and false beliefs.. While it is more common to see someone with severe depression going through it, psychosis affects those who exhibit mild to moderate signs of depression as well. Psychosis, though common in terms of patient numbers, is not totally uncontrollable, and does not happen frequently.
Bipolar can severely affects one’s cognitive ability.
A legitimate fear, this is characterised by cognitive impairment. Forgetting things like dates, places, having memory lapses, being unable to remember anything, feeling slow. Since most of the attention of Bipolar Disorder, at least in the mainstream media, is on the cycles of mania and depression, this debilitating symptom often goes unreported.
Difficulties in planning tasks, prioritising appointments, problems remembering what you’ve just read or listened to, ‘brain fog’, it all feels like your brain’s power is reducing slowly. It can get very frustrating, especially in the beginning and unnerving when you don’t seem to remember important things. Since the combination of medication for bipolar is different for different people, it can get tedious. However, it is always recommended discuss this with your doctor if you’re unduly concerned.
A person during a manic episode can be promiscuous / demonstrate hyper-sexuality.
Observe a person’s behaviour. Does it involve spending a lot of money, acting recklessly, having trouble sleeping, concentrating, speaking very fast and in a random manner? All of these, in addition to hyper-sexuality, i.e an increased sex drive, are felt by those who are undergoing an episode of mania. Thinking about sex, dreaming about multiple partners, realising those dreams, having one-night stands, higher interest in pornography, general reckless behaviour, can all be part make up of a manic episode. It isn’t a separate disorder, (i.e, the person is not hyper-sexual at all in their regular life.) It is important to recognise it as a symptom of bipolar disorder and the manic episode they are enduring at any given time.
A person suffering from Bipolar Disorder is highly susceptible to self-harm & an increased suicide risk.
There are many ways a person my try to harm himself/herself. Cutting, burning, scratching, are at one end of the spectrum. At the other end are the suicidal tendencies. There are many studies that point towards a 15% rate of occurrence of suicides amongst individuals suffering from bipolar disorder. 30 times higher than the suicide rate of the general population, this is not a figure to be taken lightly.
What has happened over time is that more recent studies, have been finding lower rates. There are many reasons for this, the primary two being that since now a large number of people are being diagnosed early, there is a larger base of study, and more often, medication has been able to curb this behaviour effectively.
Bipolar patients are prone to many categories of self-harm. There is self-injury, and there can be injuries caused due to reckless, impulsive and bad decisions during episodes. These signs are quite a formidable combination with lower levels of self esteem, increased frustration and feeling shameful.
It is important to remember that whatever be the sings and symptoms, it is vital to consult a doctor or a therapist, or both immediately, so as to get on a program that uses medication as well as behavioural therapies. A lot of the symptoms of bipolar disorder do not go with just medication. Conscious behavioural changes are to be made and that requires considerable effort on the part of the individual. It helps, if the close family and loved one’s form a support group. Along with a doctor and the right combination of medication, one can see results.