Inside The Lives Of People Living With Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes people to experience extreme mood disturbances that affect their thoughts and behavior. Causing the mood to fluctuate from one extreme to another over a certain period of time, some episodes of bipolar disorder can last longer than others. There are four main types of bipolar disorder.
People living with bipolar I experience at least one manic episode, which lasts for longer than a week (generally ranging from 3 to 6 months). It can be accompanied by periods of depression lasting for 6 to 12 months.
Kara Lynch: “I received my bipolar type I diagnosis at the young age of 22. I had experienced a three-month manic episode. The diagnosis shook me to my very core because it was something that I never thought I would have to deal with. I began medication and the uphill battle began.”
People living with bipolar II tend to undergo more than one episode of severe depression along with mild hypomanic episodes. It is a period where one is persistently elevated, expansive or irritable.
Sam Hawken: “He told me in no uncertain terms that I had Bipolar II, not depression. He prescribed medicine. I didn’t believe him and stopped taking the stuff. A year later I was in a mental ward hearing the same thing and getting the same drugs.”
People living with rapid cycling experience more than 4 or more mood episodes per year. It is a combination of hypomania and depression phases – also described as a fluctuating pattern of episodes.
Marya Hornbacher: “I have a type of bipolar that swings up and down all day long. There are significant mood swings within a say, within a week, within a month. I go through at least four major episodes a year. That’s really the definition of bipolar rapid cycle. But I have ultra-rapid, so I have tiny little episodes all day long.”
People living with cyclothymia experience mood swings that don’t fit into the criteria of mania, hypomania or depressive episodes. It is a relatively mild mood disorder where the low and high mood swings never reach the severity or duration of major depressive or full mania episodes.
Robertson Cooper: “I was diagnosed with ‘rapid cycling cyclothymia’, which meant my moods were up and down on a daily basis, defying the day to day influences which might have helped make sense of them. Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar disorder or manic depressive illness which means that I experience mood swings that go from mild depression to emotional highs. I jokingly explain it nowadays as “bipolar disorder for those of us who are too busy for the full version.”
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