Time for a refresher course

The fifth version of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses) came out in 2013, and people still seem clueless (but then, who really reads the DSM).  Regardless of whether or not you have bipolar disorder, or you have a partner or friend with bipolar disorder, or just want to be able to understand what someone is going through, it’s important to get both professional and anecdotal evidence (as long as the person has actually been diagnosed with bipolar disorder).

It’s quite often difficult to diagnose someone with bipolar disorder. I was originally diagnosed with major clinical depression and anxiety. For me, I think it was because of the abusive situation in which I was living. Being depressed most of the time, it makes sense that the diagnosis would be depression. It wasn’t until after I escaped the domestic violence that I received the correct diagnosis at the age of 40. Looking back I can see it throughout my life, and it was actually a relief because it explained a lot of behavior that I didn’t understand and of which I was ashamed.

This is from an article by Natasha Tracy about myths of about bipolar disorder. I strongly suggest that you read the whole article, she goes into depth about each myth.

Myths About People with Bipolar Disorder

These myths are brought to you by the commenters, here, at HealthyPlace.

  1. Bipolars are liars
  2. Bipolars cheat on their partners
  3. Bipolars are manipulative
  4. Bipolars are “spoiled teenagers”
  5. Bipolars feel it’s “all about them”
  6. Bipolars are angry and violent
  7. Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are almost the same thing

Well now, that’s quite a list. It’s amazing I’m allowed to live outside with all the “sane” people. For my own part, I am nothing like those seven things. I have never known a bipolar that was those seven things.

The following is from an article on the Healthline website:

The highs or extremely joyful times are called manic episodes. Low periods marked by sadness or hopelessness are called depressive episodes. A mixed state is a mood episode that contains moments of mania and depression.

Manic Episode Signs: Some people experience several mood episodes in one day. Others may have sustained periods of one single mood or experience episodes infrequently.

Not all manic episodes are marked by happy or positive feelings(*see note). You may just as easily act anxious, restless, and irritable. Your speech may speed up and your attention may be easily diverted.

People in manic episodes often have difficulty sleeping. Sometimes, a manic episode can cause a person to energetically start a new project or work extra hard on something. But a manic episode may also lead to reckless behaviors, especially those related to sex, drugs, or money.

(*Note: I get agitated mania, not pleasant one bit. This is when I’m in danger of harming myself or others.)

Depressive Episode Signs:  Depressive episodes are long periods in which a person feels discouraged and hopeless. Like someone with clinical depression, a bipolar patient often withdraws from activities that were once enjoyable, such as having sex, socializing with friends, or dabbling in hobbies.Sleeping and eating patterns often change when a person is in a depressive episode. In serious cases, a depressive episode can lead a person to alcohol or drug abuse. Patients may also have thoughts of suicide.

Mixed State Signs:  A bipolar disorder patient in a mixed state may demonstrate some of the best and worst aspects of the disease, which can confuse those close to the bipolar person. For example, someone in a mixed state may be very energetic and hard working, but also seem very depressed. Mixed states can be especially frustrating for the bipolar patient. Feelings of elation may be accompanied by crying, for example. Changes in appetite and sleeping habits may also develop during this state. (Note: I can certainly attest to mixed states be especially frustrating).

Bipolar Subtypes:  Like many health challenges, bipolar disorder can be mild, severe, or somewhere in between. There are three subtypes of the condition: (Note: I think this is why most people who do not have bipolar disorder get confused, it even confuses us at times. FYI, I have Bipolar I Disorder.)

  • cyclothymic disorder: the mildest version of bipolar disorder. A person still has highs and lows, but they’re less dramatic.
  • bipolar I disorder: the most serious subtype, with extreme shifts between mania and depression.
  • bipolar II disorder: less serious than bipolar I disorder. It can still cause problems in relationships, school, and work.

Some excellent sources for information and support for both people with the disorder and loved ones is DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance), NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), PsychCentral, and, WebMD

And if you want to get really technical (there are all kinds of “Bipolar Disorder With…” diagnoses) checkout the DSM webpage, following are their diagnoses (which I believe will be updated soon).

  • Bipolar I Disorder, single manic episode
  • Bipolar I Disorder MRE, manic/hypomanic
  • Bipolar I Disorder MRE, depressed
  • Bipolar I Disorder MRE, mixed
  • Bipolar I Disorder MRE, unspecified
  • Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorder
  • Bipolar II Disorder AND Other Specified Bipolar and Related Disorder

And finally, from the Mayo Clinic Website:

Although bipolar disorder is a disruptive, long-term condition, you can keep your moods in check by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder can be controlled with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy).

Please comment below about your experiences, or any corrections or additions you may feel are important.

2 thoughts on “Time for a refresher course

  1. I would add that bipolar is an ~illness~. It's time to dump the phrase “mental illness” because it invites people to perceive our ailments as being works of our imagination rather than our bodies.

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