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World Bipolar Day

Smiling pretty young girl with bipolar disorder

Nearly six million Americans are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and yet the general public knows very little about this condition. This is part of the reason why every March 30 has been designated as World Bipolar Day. The goal behind this initiative is to raise awareness, acceptance, and funding to help people with bipolar disorder thrive and to reduce the stigma that so many of them still face.

At Carolina Dunes Behavioral Health in Leland, North Carolina, we treat many patients with bipolar disorder. We know that mental health recovery is possible because we witness it in the resilient people we serve.

Why This Day Specifically?

March 30 was not chosen randomly for this observation. It is the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most beloved artists in history, who is thought to have experienced bipolar disorder. Like Van Gogh, many people with bipolar disorder are brilliant and creative. Unfortunately, Van Gogh also exemplifies the heightened risk for suicide that is faced by people with bipolar disorder, as he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

  • Bipolar disorder has the highest rate of suicide of any psychiatric condition. 
  • One in five people with bipolar disorder dies by suicide.
  • People with bipolar disorder are 20-30 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population.
  • Attempts are not just common during periods of depression but may also occur during manic episodes.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

The human brain is extremely complex, and we cannot definitively point to a single cause for bipolar disorder, but there are some factors that are common among people with bipolar diagnoses:

  • Physical Differences in the Brain – scientists have observed that the brains of people with bipolar disorder undergo changes that make them different from the brains of people without the condition
  • Genetics – people who have a sibling or parent with bipolar are also more likely to experience the condition
  • Traumatic Events – there is often an especially painful life event that acted as a trigger for the first mental health episode a person bipolar experienced
  • Substances – drugs or alcohol have sometimes been found to be triggers for the first bipolar episode a person experienced

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

There are different types of bipolar disorder, each with variations from the other types. Each individual with a bipolar diagnosis is also unique in how they experience their condition. There are some symptoms, however, that are frequently experienced: 

  • Periods of major depression
  • Episodes of intensely elevated mood (mania or hypomania) which may be accompanied by:
  • Euphoria
  • Psychosis
  • Delusions
  • Rage
  • Racing thoughts
  • Impulsivity

Co-Occurring Conditions

People with bipolar disorder often struggle with other conditions as well, some of which may be related to their mental health and others that may be related to their physical health. Some of the most common are:

  • Metabolic Syndrome – this is a group of health concerns that places people at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Symptoms can include:
    • High blood pressure
    • Problems with cholesterol
    • Increased blood sugar
    • Large amounts of belly fat
  • Obesity – nearly 70 percent of people with bipolar disorder are categorized as obese, which is only partially explained as a side effect of medications used to treat the condition.
  • Diabetes – people with bipolar diagnoses are twice as likely as the general population to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Cardiovascular Disease – this condition is also twice as common in people with bipolar as it is in the general population.
  • Migraines – nearly 40 percent of people with bipolar disorder experience migraine headaches. This is three to six times more frequent than in the general population.

Outcomes Without Treatment

With treatment, people with bipolar disorders can live happy, healthy, productive lives. Without treatment, they are at high risk for several undesirable outcomes, including:

  • School and work problems
  • Substance use disorder
  • Legal trouble
  • Money issues
  • Strained relationships
  • Suicide attempts and death by suicide

Common Misconceptions

Due to a lack of awareness about this mental health condition, there are a lot of myths that have been perpetuated about bipolar disorder. These are some of the most common:

  1. If you have mood swings, you have bipolar disorder – it is common and healthy for people to experience ups and downs, particularly if good or bad things are happening to them. Even if it seems like a person is rapidly moving from one mood to another, there may be other explanations besides bipolar disorder.
  2. Mania is fun – Though some people do experience euphoria during manic episodes, it is also common for people to experience delusions, paranoia, and impulsivity, which may lead to long-term consequences they will have to face long after the mania has subsided. 
  3. Bipolar disorder cannot be treated – a lot of people confuse the idea of cures and treatments. There is not yet a cure for bipolar disorder. There is not a surgery or a pill that can be given to a person so that they no longer have bipolar disorder, but there are numerous effective treatments that can allow people with this diagnosis to live happy, meaningful lives. This includes medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.

At Carolina Dunes Behavioral Health, we utilize trauma-informed care and a whole-person approach to support people with bipolar disorders and their loved ones. We encourage you to reach out if you have additional questions about our services or the conditions we treat.

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