We’ve all heard someone say, “I’m just in a bad mood today.”
Sometimes, the mechanics of life–scheduling demands, work, and school expectations, family obligations can all seem “too much”. These are the types of triggers that can affect those with a predisposition to the spectrum of disorders called bipolar. For some, depression and mood swings occur for no discernible reason, they just withdraw and fall into episodes of deep depression.
Historically, there are many examples of famous people who have been diagnosed as bipolar. Winston Churchill described his lingering bouts of depression as his “black dog”. Those who knew him say he suffered from prolonged bouts of worry and anxiety. To cope, he immersed himself in self-education of world history, politics and military matters. In spite of periods of depression, he was an incredibly productive world leader with significant accomplishments. Most recently, successful recording artist, Demi Lovato, went public with her battles with bulimia, drugs, and cutting for which she went into rehab and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
How can you tell the difference between everyday low moods and signs of a more serious mental health condition?
When the occasional bad mood turns into sustained periods of extreme highs and lows, this may be a sign of someone dealing with bipolar disorder.
An estimated 6 million adult Americans experience bipolar tendencies, which can vary from mild to severe The cause of bipolar disorder, which also is sometimes called manic depression, isn’t exactly known. However, it is thought to be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain. And because mood disorders tend to run in families, there may be a genetic link.
Men and women are equally affected, although men lean towards the manic spectrum and women are likely to experience more depression. Episodes may last hours, or stretch into months and years.
Usually, those with bipolar disorder experience bipolar depression (the lows) more often than mania or hypomania (the highs). Bipolar depression is more likely to cause disability along with suicidal thoughts and behavior. However, experiencing either extreme of high or low state-of-mind can be disorienting and disruptive. Sufferers may behave in risky and self-destructive ways.
The mania or highs of bipolar disorder may manifest in aggressive behavior with exaggerated optimism and self-confidence, racing thoughts and speech, impulsiveness and easily distracted attention spans with periods of prolonged sleeplessness. People with mania may be super-charged emotionally, full of energy, and talking non-stop.
The depressive side, or the lows bring about prolonged periods of sadness, changes in sleep patterns, irritability, worry, and anxiety. The depressed phase may cause social withdrawal and an inability to partake in former interests.
Bipolar disorder and depression are diagnosable conditions that may be treated with prescribed medication, talk therapy or support groups, depending on the individual situation. In children, depression and bipolar symptoms are similar to other conditions like ADHD and anxiety. You may wish to insist on additional screening to be sure.
With treatment, children and adults can manage and recognize the triggers for manic behavior and depressive episodes. Keeping a journal for recording behaviors, exercise and diet is usually a good first step.
If you or someone you know has thoughts of death or suicide, call (800) 273-TALK (800-273-8255) or 9-1-1 immediately. Or contact a medical professional, clergy member, loved one, friend, or hospital emergency room.
At The Law Office of Jeanne Coleman, we encourage families to seek education and help if they recognize a loved one is struggling with depression or bipolar tendencies. Be supportive and get in touch with a professional to get the proper treatment and advice.
For guidance concerning family law matters, contact us today at 813-253-2820.