Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly. People with bipolar experience high and low moods—known as mania and depression—which differ from the typical ups-and-downs most people experience, known as distimias.
The lows of bipolar depression are frequently so debilitating that patients are unable to get out of bed. Typically, people experiencing a depressive episode tend to have difficulty falling and staying asleep, while others sleep far more than usual.
When patients fall into depression, even minor decisions such as what to eat for dinner can be overwhelming and difficult. They tend to become obsessed with feelings of desperation, loneliness, loss, personal failure, guilt or helplessness; what is very worrisome is that this negative thinking can lead to thoughts of suicide.
“So I decided to enter this asylum. At least here I can be myself.’ — Khalil Gibran
Most of the time, people in manic states are unaware of the negative consequences of their actions. With bipolar disorder, suicide is an ever-present danger because some people become suicidal even in manic states. Learning from prior episodes what kinds of behavior signals “red flags” of manic behavior can help manage the symptoms of the illness.
“But if love is not the cure, it certainly can act as a very strong medicine.” —