What you need to know about the term “bipolar”

I noticed how some adolescents are using the word bipolar in their schools.  I recently talked to some students from a local school, and they told me that many of their friends call each other “bipolar.”  I asked if they could explain to me why they used that term, but I did not get a straight answer.  They simply said they call anyone bipolar whose behavior is “strange.”

It appears that many adolescents use this term, but most do not know the real meaning.  The National Institute of Health defines the term bipolar as “a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels, and results in an inability to carry out day-to-day tasks.”  The symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe.  They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time.  Fluctuations in mood between mania and depression can be very rapid.  As a result, this condition was formerly known as manic-depression.

During the manic period, the person has unusual excess energy (for example, he/she can work 18 to 20 hours a day without rest), and the need for sleep decreases considerably.  Delusions of grandiosity are common, and they tend to get angry if someone disagrees with them.  They also tend to talk more than usual and show a pattern of irresponsible behavior.  An increase in social activities and in sexual activity is very common during this phase.  Their self-esteem is raised in ways that cause others to perceive them as arrogant and cocky.

Depression usually follows the manic period. During this phase, the individual may experience feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt, loneliness, hopelessness, fatigue, loss of interest in activities, poor concentration, self-hatred, social anxiety, irritability, lack of motivation, and even suicidal thoughts.  Loss of appetite and involuntary weight loss are also common in this period.  Insomnia or oversleeping is also characteristic of this phase, and the ability to make decisions becomes much more difficult.

Medications and talk therapy are strongly recommended for patients experiencing this disorder.  The need to balance the chemicals in the brain through drug treatment is crucial for the individual’s recovery. Bipolar disorder can actually be kept under control in the long term.

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