Sonia Relyea

Mental Disorders Don't Make Monsters

Bipolar Disorder - a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks; a manic depressive illness

Approximately 5.5 million Americans, age 18 or older, suffer from a form of bipolar disease. The symptoms of this illness include drastic mood swings, behavioral changes and different highs and lows in mood and energy. This disorder, while it is destructive to the victim, can also result in damaged relationships, poor job and or school performance, and even suicide. Luckily, while there is no found cure for this disorder, there are different forms of treatment available. With treatment, people who suffer with bipolar disorder can lead full and productive lives.

The first step in treatment of this disorder is talking to a doctor or therapist, followed by a diagnosis. There are 5 different types of Bipolar disorder. The most common are Bipolar I Disorder, and Bipolar II Disorder.

Bipolar I Disorder is defined by manic or mixed episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Bipolar II Disorder is defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypo-manic episodes, but no full-blown manic or mixed episodes.

The other forms of Bipolar Disorder include Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS), Cyclothymic Disorder or Cydothymia, and Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder. BP-NOS is diagnosed when symptoms of the illness exist, but do not meet diagnostic criteria for either Bipolar I or Bipolar II. However, symptoms are clearly out of a person's normal range of behavior. Cyclothymic Disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder. Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder is when a person has four or more episodes of major depression, mania, hypo-mania, or mixed states, all within one year.

Once the type of Bipolar Disorder is diagnosed, treatment can begin. There are several different types of therapies and medications that can help to control symptoms. These medications include Valproic Acid or Divalproex Sodium, and Lamictal. There are also mood stabilizers, which are usually the first choice to treat these disorders. Side affects from these medications include restlessness, dry mouth, bloating or indigestion, acne, unusual discomfort to cold temperatures, joint/muscle pain, and brittle hair and or nails.

If you or someone you know suffer from any of the symptoms discussed here or found in online searches, talk to your doctor or therapist. There is nothing wrong with a mental disorder. They are common in many families, and can be treated. You are not the only one, and there is always support when you need it.

Mental disorders don't make monsters, monsters are made out of assumptions made about misunderstood people.

"Bipolar Disorder." NIMH RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.

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