Four facts il­lu­mi­nate bipo­lar disorder

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The in­tense symp­toms of bipo­lar disorder can make it an easy tar­get for stigma­ti­za­tion. What in­di­vid­u­als who per­pet­u­ate mis­con­cep­tions about the con­di­tion may not re­al­ize is that, with treat­ment, many in­di­vid­u­als with bipo­lar disorder — in­clud­ing singer Mariah Carey, ac­tress Cather­ine Zeta-Jones and TV host Jane Pauley — can en­joy ful­fill­ing, pro­duc­tive lives.

Here are four facts that can help de­mys­tify what, for many peo­ple, re­mains a mys­te­ri­ous ill­ness:

1. Bipo­lar disorder is var­ied and episodic. Mood episodes last­ing days or weeks are the defin­ing fea­tures of bipo­lar disorder. They are pe­ri­ods when in­di­vid­u­als feel ex­tremely “high” (manic episodes) or “low” (de­pres­sive episodes). In times of ma­nia, peo­ple with bipo­lar disorder can feel as if life is in over­drive — they may have lots of en­ergy, think and talk quickly and feel jumpy. Pe­ri­ods of de­pres­sion can bring in­tense fa­tigue, al­tered sleep pat­terns and feel­ings of worth­less­ness or hope­less­ness. Some peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence fea­tures of both ma­nia and de­pres­sion at the same time, and oth­ers have hy­po­manic episodes — less se­vere forms of ma­nia.

2. A clear-cut cause re­mains elu­sive. Re­searchers spec­u­late that a va­ri­ety of fac­tors, in­clud­ing brain struc­ture and func­tion, ex­po­sure to ex­treme stress, fam­ily his­tory and cer­tain genes may play a role in the de­vel­op­ment of bipo­lar disorder, but more work is needed to know for sure.

3. Bipo­lar disorder can hide in plain sight. That’s be­cause its symp­toms can mimic those of other dis­eases, es­pe­cially de­pres­sion and schizophrenia. A men­tal health pro­fes­sional can di­ag­nose bipo­lar disorder and help rule out other con­di­tions by talk­ing with pa­tients, con­duct­ing phys­i­cal ex­ams and or­der­ing lab­o­ra­tory tests.

4. The sooner treat­ment be­gins the bet­ter. Bipo­lar disorder often gets worse the longer it goes un­treated, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Al­liance on Men­tal Ill­ness. Although no cure ex­ists, bipo­lar disorder is treat­able. Med­i­ca­tion, such as mood-sta­bi­liz­ing drugs, and talk ther­apy are two treat­ments that can help con­trol it.

Strength through sup­port

The ex­treme highs and lows of bipo­lar disorder chal­lenge not only those af­fected but also their friends and fam­ily. To pro­vide the sup­port some­one with bipo­lar disorder needs, be sure to:

• Take the long view. Bipo­lar disorder is treat­able, but it’s a life­long ill­ness and cer­tain symp­toms may re­cur re­gard­less of ther­apy. Be pa­tient with your loved one and don’t take it per­son­ally if he says or does some­thing hurt­ful dur­ing a mood episode that you know he doesn’t mean.

• Be a shoul­der to lean on. Let your friend or fam­ily mem­ber know that she can con­fide in you with­out judg­ment and that you want to know how she’s do­ing and what she thinks.

• Fos­ter in­clu­sion. In­vite your loved one to group din­ners, out to movies and on day trips even if she often de­clines.

• Know how to get help. If a friend, fam­ily mem­ber or oth­ers are in dan­ger of harm, the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Men­tal Health rec­om­mends call­ing 911 or the Na­tional Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Lifeline at 800273-TALK (8255).

Na­tional Men­tal Health Aware­ness Week is held each year dur­ing the first full week of Oc­to­ber. This ob­ser­vance is a grass­roots ef­fort of NAMI to broaden pub­lic aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing of men­tal ill­ness, elim­i­nate stigma and of­fer sup­port for treat­ment and re­cov­ery.

Re­solv­ing men­tal and emo­tional health chal­lenges re­quires ex­per­tise, com­pas­sion and spe­cial care. Faith Berry, MS, LPC, and Don Wlek­lin­ski, APRN, fo­cus on help­ing in­di­vid­u­als achieve op­ti­mal men­tal health in a pro­fes­sional, car­ing en­vi­ron­ment. To sched­ule an ap­point­ment, call 479215-3190 to­day.

Did you know?

• Peo­ple can de­velop bipo­lar disorder at any age, but it typ­i­cally ap­pears in young adult­hood. The av­er­age age of on­set is 25, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Al­liance on Men­tal Ill­ness.

• In­di­vid­u­als with bipo­lar disorder are more likely to de­velop other chronic con­di­tions, in­clud­ing di­a­betes, heart dis­ease, obe­sity and thy­roid dis­ease.

• As many as nine in 10 peo­ple with bipo­lar disorder may have a fam­ily mem­ber who shares the con­di­tion or has de­pres­sion, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Psy­chi­atric As­so­ci­a­tion.

Siloam Springs Re­gional Hos­pi­tal is a 73 li­censed bed fa­cil­ity with 42 pri­vate pa­tient rooms. It is ac­cred­ited by the State of Arkansas De­part­ment of Health Ser­vices and The Joint Com­mis­sion. Some ser­vices in­clude in­pa­tient and out­pa­tient surgery, emer­gency medicine, med­i­cal, sur­gi­cal and in­ten­sive care units, ob­stet­rics, out­pa­tient di­ag­nos­tic ser­vices and in­pa­tient and out­pa­tient re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. With more than 50 physi­cians on the med­i­cal staff, Siloam Springs Re­gional Hos­pi­tal pro­vides com­pas­sion­ate, cus­tomer-fo­cused care. SSRH is an af­fil­i­ate of North­west Health, one of the largest health net­works in North­west Arkansas, and through that af­fil­i­a­tion is a mem­ber of the Mayo Clinic Care Net­work. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit North­west Health.com.

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