The United States’ National Institute of Mental Health defines bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, as a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. There are four types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar 1 disorder, Bipolar 2 disorder, Cyclothymic disorder, and other unspecified bipolar symptoms.
Bipolar 1 can be defined by periods of manic episodes that last up to a week-long or other manic symptoms that require immediate hospitalization or medical care. A two-week-long depression may precede or follow these manic episodes and periods. Bipolar 2 disorder is defined by a period of hypomanic and depressive episodes, but not to the extent as in Bipolar 1 disorder. Cyclothymic disorder is numerous periods of depression and hypomanic symptoms that last upwards of two years or more. Other specified and unspecified conditions and symptoms fall under the fourth differentiation.
Signs of bipolar disorder can vary from person to person. But mood swings from one high to an extreme low will be evident in someone with bipolar disorder. Manic signs may include: talking really fast about different things, suddenly having a lot of energy, feeling jumpy or wired, having trouble sleeping, feeling very elated or high, being agitated and irritable, thinking they can multitask several different things at once, and indulging in risky behavior like sex or spending money. Depressed signs may include: feeling very sad or down, having trouble sleeping, feeling like they can’t do anything, thinking about death or suicide, feeling like they cannot enjoy anything, forgetting a lot of things, and having trouble concentrating, to name a few.
Bipolar disorder is a very serious issue that can lead to risky behavior, including suicidal tendencies. Though bipolar disorder of all types is a lifelong condition, it can be treated and your mood swings managed by following a treatment plan. Counseling, therapy, and medication can be used to treat bipolar disorder. Talking with a licensed, trained doctor or mental health specialist is the first step towards treatment. A doctor might prescribe medicine and or counseling.
The best way to handle dating someone with bipolar disorder is to have patience and realize they have a disorder that cannot be cured. Even on medicine, episodes can occur from time to time. The best thing to do is be there for your partner until the episode passes. Encourage your partner to seek therapy. Engage with them about their lives. Things like stress and feeling like they have no one to talk to can trigger further episodes.
Living with bipolar disorder isn’t easy. But one can still be a functioning adult and member of society with this ailment. Recognizing the signs is the first step on the way to recovery. For those in relationships with someone suffering from bipolar disorder, remember that loving someone means being there through highs and lows.