Bipolar Disorder and Normal Living: Possible?
Mental illness is something that many people in the United States are no stranger to. In fact, it is estimated that nearly six million adults in the United States suffer from bipolar disorder alone (Bipolar #1.) Let's start by defining what bipolar disorder is. Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder categorized by extremely low depressive states (loss of appetite, depression, excessive sleeping, feelings of hopelessness and sometimes thoughts of suicide) and extremely high manic states (euphoric mood, racing thoughts and risky behavior like excessive spending) (Furnham, 4.) This being said, it seems as if people suffering from this would have an awful time functioning in a normal life. But first, what is a normal life? For this, we'll categorize a normal life as someone who is able to live independently of others. These are people who can hold a job, go to school if they wish, and even have functioning relationships with others and live in a house by themselves (that is, not having to be cared for by others.) Seems like a long stretch for someone who has mood swings that are so sever and may go from not being able to get out of bed one day and then spending all of their money another day. However, with all of the options available with medications and therapy now, why would they not be able to live independently? It seems perfectly reasonable that if they were to be willing to stick to a routine of medication and therapy that they would be able to live a normal life.
Let's start with why someone might not be able to live a normal life if they suffer from bipolar disorder. The first thing that could make this difficult is the fact that bipolar disorder is very difficult to diagnose because of how unpredictable it can be. Not only is it unpredictable, but people often suffer the symptoms of an episode for months after it actually occurs. People are very often in pain and they find it difficult to function through the fog of a depressive episode. Even after being medicated, the symptoms can still persist even if they are slightly milder. According to an article by Andrea Steinkuller and Jane E. Rheineck, 60% of people who suffer from bipolar disorder are not able to regain full occupational and social function. Often times these people will isolate themselves and skip work which makes it difficult to keep a job and friends, without which a normal life isn't really possible.
Another thing people worry about is whether or not they will be able to have kids. According to the article, "Lay Theories of Bipolar Disorder: The Causes, Manifestations and Cures for Perceived Bipolar Disorder," by Adrian Furnham And Elizabeth Anthony, "
bipolar disorder is one of the most heritable mental disorders
" This means that out of all of the other mental disorders out there, children whose parents are bipolar are more likely to also have it.
Even after they start medication and therapy, there are often times still problems. When someone who is bipolar enters a manic phase, they tend to feel as if they are on top of the world. Because of this feeling, they will often times stop taking their medications and begin to skip therapy. This also can occur because they resent having to take medication, so they will try to handle everything on their own ("Addressing Selective Compliance in Patients with Bipolar Depression".) Often times after they have realized that they do need something to help them out, rather than go to a professional for help, they will self medicate with illegal substances ("Bipolar Depression".) For these people, recovery will probably never be possible because they are not willing to do what needs to be done to recover. Sometimes someone will step in and be able to get them in gear or something will happen to get them to understand that they need to make certain changes in their lives in order to function properly.
On the topic of medication, the right one can be everything. Currently there are not too many medications out there for the treatment of bipolar disorder, but there are a few which have been found to be effective. Among those used to treat bipolar disorder are lithium, Lamictal, Depakote, Tegretol, and Trileptal ("Medications for Bipolar.") Many of these medications are also anticonvulsants used for treating things like epilepsy. These medications react with the brain, affecting the chemicals that are off balance and helping to balance them out, creating more stable moods. It's no wonder these medications are known as mood stabilizers. With the right medication, someone can go from unable to complete simple tasks and out of control to excelling at what they need to do. In the article, "Swimming in Deep Water: Childhood Bipolar Disorder," Gwen Senokossoff talks about what it was like having a child who was bipolar. She states that he was unruly and doing bad in school and often created problems at home as well. For a long time, he was diagnosed with ADHD (because let's face it, what kid who seems troubled in some way isn't assumed to be ADD or ADHD today?) and medicated for it, but the problems still persisted. Finally they diagnosed him with childhood bipolar, a condition that usually goes away as the child gets older, and put him on the proper medication. She says that after that, tings got much better. He began to excel in school and his behavior dramatically increased. It was difficult to deal with it as a parent, but she did what needed to be done, and that, along with therapy and the right medication made it possible for her son to live a normal life.
The segment on "Living with Bipolar Disorder" on the show The Answered Patient by AnswersTV.com goes into detail on living with Bipolar Disorder. Two people who have the disorder are given the opportunity to tell their stories. One of them, Sarah Ebadi, talks about how one day she simply snapped and fell into a four month long depression, battling with not being able to do anything and severe suicidal thoughts. It had almost stopped her life entirely. Finally, like so many other people with bipolar, she realized that she needed help. Now, with the help of medication and regular therapy appointments, she is able to have a job she loves, live by herself, and go out with friends. The other person, Brian McGing, talks about his manic episodes. He was going out and doing risky things like drinking and picking fights with random strangers just to see if he could still feel. He was losing himself and his life until he realized too that he needed help. He states that, "Don't believe the myth that a mood disorder is not treatable. It's a myth. I'm an example of someone who lives very successfully with a mood disorder. I have a great career, great friends, and I love my life." These are real accounts from real people suffering from the disorder. But what about other people? These are, after all, only two people. There are more people suffering from the disorder that are incredibly successful than most would think. For example: Beethoven, Russell Brand, Lord Byron, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alexander Hamilton, Ernest Hemingway, Patrick J. Kennedy, Issac Newton, Florence Nightingale, Axel Rose, Mark Twain, Virginia Wolf, and even Ben Stiller are all people who suffer or suffered from Bipolar Disorder ("A-Z of Famous People With Bipolar Disorder.")
But what about when it comes to having kids? I stated earlier that bipolar is very commonly inherited, but just how likely is it that a child will have bipolar disorder if one of their parents has it. According to the article "Bipolar Disorder" from Ask Dr. Sue, if one parent has bipolar disorder, the risk is about 15-30% that a child will have it. The risk goes up to about 50% if both parents have the disorder. These risks seem high, but aren't really as high as they sound.
So in conclusion, Bipolar disorder can be difficult to deal with. Often time people don't want to admit they have a problem or they choose to self medicate. However, this does not mean it isn't possible. Through the right medications and keeping up with therapy, it is highly possible and likely that people will recover and be able to live normal lives. This is reinforced not only through the segment on AnswersTV.com, but also through the amount of famous and successful people who had or do have bipolar disorder. All it takes is will power and a willingness to accept help.