What is Bipolar?

So, you may be asking, what IS Bipolar Disorder? Today I’m going to give a concise, “clinical” answer, if you will. This is the basics. (Please note that I am NOT a doctor, this information is gathered from Psychology today and the National Institute of Mental Health).

This is what Psychology Today has to say about Bipolar Disorder:

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, and ability to function. These are not the normal ups and downs; the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide.

About 5.7 million American adults or about 2.6 percent of the population age 18 and older in any given year have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, some people have their first symptoms during childhood, and some develop them late in life. Bipolar disorder is often not recognized as an illness, and people may suffer for years before it is properly diagnosed and treated. It is a long-term illness that requires careful management throughout the person’s life.

Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings from overly high and, or, irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.

I think that is probably a very good, easy to understand idea of what Bipolar is. At least in general. It is VERY important to note that Bipolar is NOT a choice. It is a chemical imbalance in the body. It has choices and coping mechanisms that each patient has to learn, but being Bipolar is not a choice by any means, it’s chemical, which means it’s physical.

Bipolar disorder is more common in late teen and early adult years, however, it is possible for children to have it as well. In adults, the symptoms are very clearly defined, however in children, like my son, it’s much harder to diagnose and until recently there were many doctors unwilling to diagnose bipolar in children.

During manic (high) episodes children may:

  • Feel very happy or act silly in a way that’s unusual
  • Have a very short temper
  • Talk really fast about a lot of different things
  • Have trouble sleeping but not feel tired
  • Have trouble staying focused
  • Talk and think about sex more often (though this isn’t always the case)
  • Do risky things

During their depressive episodes, children may:

  • Feel very sad
  • Complain about pain a lot; stomachaches, headaches
  • Sleep too little or too much
  • Feel guilty and worthless
  • Eat too little or too much
  • Have little energy and no interest in fun activities
  • Think about death or suicide

Children with Bipolar Disorder can have other co-existing problems as well

  • Substance abuse
  • ADD or ADHD
  • Anxiety disorderss
  • Other mental illnesses, such as depression

Because some of the symptoms of children with Bipolar disorder are the same as some of the symptoms of things like ADD, ADHD, depression, etc. it is VERY important that you seek out medical help if you suspect that your child may be Bipolar.

Stay tuned for how this looks in my household.

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