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The Lowdown on Bipolar Disorder

Boo has been directly impacted by bipolar disorder. She shares her experiences with mental illness in order to help stomp out the stigmas.

Medications can help bipolar disorder

Medications can help bipolar disorder

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

What exactly is bipolar disorder, you may ask? What used to be called manic depression is now called bipolar disorder. It is a mood disorder that can sometimes be quite severe in its many forms. Many believe that this mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance of the brain. You can go from one mood extreme to another mood extreme. You never know what will trigger an episode; it just happens. You can swing from elevated happiness and euphoria to slumbering sadness and sorrow—and it can happen within a period of months, weeks, or even hours. It all depends on what kind of cycle you are going through.

Types of Bipolar

Bipolar I Disorder

This involves at least one or more manic or mixed episode/rapid cycling, and often one or more major depressive episodes. A depressive episode may last for several weeks or months. Your mood changes may also be related to the seasons and weather. A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood, accompanied by but not limited to hallucinations, grandiose feelings, and increased sexual desire

Bipolar II Disorder

One or more major depressive episodes with at least one hypo-manic episode. Hypo-manic episodes have symptoms similar to manic episodes but are not as severe. Other forms of mania may include behaviors such as unexplained irritability, insomnia, and unacceptable social behaviors.

Cyclothymic Disorder

It is a mood disorder with repeated periods of mild depression, and periods of normal or slightly elevated mood. It lasts at least two years. It is the mildest form of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder With Mixed Features

A person will simultaneously have depression and mania. While this may seem paradoxically impossible to have a manic and depressed state all at the same time, the two mood states happen quite often in many bipolar people. Oftentimes those who have mixed episodes experience worse symptoms, with an increased risk of psychosis.

Other Symptoms May Include:

  • Talking too fast or loudly
  • Risky or impulsive behaviors
  • Paranoia or hallucinations
  • Lack of energy
  • A loss of interest, no pleasure
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Crying uncontrollably
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Unwarranted risk-taking

Keeping Track of Everything

If you are lucky, the medications you are prescribed by a psychiatrist will work the first time you try them. It is not uncommon, however, to cycle through a menagerie of medications to find the one that works for you. Oftentimes, you may need two or three to help you stabilize your cycles. You and your doctor can decide how many you need for you to reach stability.

Another consideration is that each medication is associated with its own side effects. It may take some work to find the right medication or combination of medications that will allow you to live a normal, productive life without intolerable side effects.

Bipolar disorder is a manageable illness. It takes working with your doctors and consistency in your routine to make your life productive.

There will be times you are so depressed all you can think about is suicide. You find it extremely difficult to get out of bed for days on end. You pay absolutely no detail to your hygiene or eating. You lock the door and lay in bed, knowing the world has come to an end. Nothing matters; nothing exists outside of your bedroom walls. Your brain tells you life isn't worth living. You're just a big lump, waiting for a hole in the floor to suck you in. You want to die because you believe there is no other way. You are convinced nobody likes you, anyway. So why bother? This is often the train of thought that goes along with someone who is in the very depressed phase of bipolar disorder.

Then there is the manic phase. You think you are the president of the United States. You are totally invincible. You believe you can fly, if you so desire. You have an unrelenting sex drive, and you feel the need to jump on a flight to another country for no reason other than you just know you need to do it. Your mind races so fast you can't keep up. The thoughts keep coming until they turn into voices you can't understand. You want to spend money, and shop for things you know you don't need. Sleep is elusive. You require very little, if any, for days at a time. You talk fast and loud, blaming others for not being able to keep up with you. Life may begin to slip out of control.

The fact is that bipolar can affect anyone. It is a serious mental illness that affects approximately 1% of the world population according to The World Health Organization.

There is hope, don't give up

There is hope, don't give up

There is light at the end of the tunnel

There is light at the end of the tunnel

There Are Options

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but there are several treatment options. You can take mood stabilizing medications, anti-depressant medications, and, when necessary, antipsychotic medications. Psychotherapy is also very useful. As a last resort, there is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). The most common treatment is mood stabilizing medications such as Lithium, Abilify, Depakote, and Tegretol.

Bipolar can carry a strong stigma that prevents some people from seeking treatment because they are afraid of what others might think of them. There is the fear of losing a job because of preconceived ideas of what bipolar means or what the bipolar person might do. As mentioned above, it is a mental illness that can be treated with medication and therapy. It is possible to lead a normal life if the person diagnosed is treated and follows a stringent treatment plan.

Of course, along with stigma comes the poor choices the bipolar person may make while in a manic phase. This might include run-ins with the law and trouble in personal or work relationships, all of which can create more shame and stigma.

It's important to realize, though, that bipolar is nothing to be ashamed of! You do not need to feel stigmatized because there are treatments and support groups to help you work toward stability and wellness. Bipolar is like any other illness that needs to be treated with medication. As long as you continue with a treatment option that controls your symptoms, you can often live a normal and productive life.

Keep track of your triggers. Recognize what stresses you out. Take notes on patterns that cause you to have mood swings. With this information, you can begin to recognize your triggers and avoid them. By doing this, you will be able to manage your symptoms, inform your doctor, and make changes to your medication and life choices, if needed.

Keeping your regular doctor and therapy appointments is always crucial. Your doctors can't help you if you aren't helping yourself. Going off bipolar meds or changing them without consulting your doctor can cause episodes to return or get worse. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you intend to quit taking medications. Remember, along with proper medication, bipolar can usually be managed with therapy, support groups, family, and friends.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2008 Boo McCourt


Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on July 29, 2014:

Hi Rose,

I am doing okay. I don't write as much as I use to, I am pretty good on my meds too. Just bought a Nook and find myself reading a lot more. Which is an amazing thing. As you know reading can often be elusive. I am glad you found happiness, it is sure hard isn't it? I am glad you commented, and keep reading those books!

Rosemary Amrhein on July 17, 2014:

Hi there my friend!

A GREAT article, very true and well written. I've been there and finally on good meds and life is amazing now that I'm living spiritually in a more positive state of mind. Thank you!

Just finished a book, my third!

Take care my friend!



Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on December 07, 2012:

Hi Diane, It helps to have a supportive network of people in your life , as bipolar can really be a lonesome illness sometimes. I am glad you found the right med cocktail and are doing well. Many people do not find that. Keep up the great work Diane.

Diane Minton from Evansville, Indiana on November 24, 2012:

I would like to clarify, Bipolar 1 2 or other, is a blood disorder manifesting itself psychologically, as per my therapist. I have had the bipolar 1 for 33 yrs, been hospitalized 3 times, for the mania, and the depression, which my poor family doesn't think I have, which I am glad. I do not have any of this now due to taking seroquel for the last 4 months. If this med had been in existence in the 80's I would have never gone thru stopping my lithium that I needed. and still take. Bipolar is in part a hell, in part a heaven and in the middle, normalcy....

I am thankful to have a great stable life now and no thoughts of suicide or depressed or manic thoughts. If I had none, and it were 200 yr ago, I would be insane and in an institution somewhere no knowing my name, where I came from or anything else....I am thankful to have meds, family that loves me, I hope others find the same. God Bless all who suffer.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on July 15, 2012:

I am very sorry to hear about your family and attempts at suicide. My niece who is 16 tried to hang herself, took an overdose of abilify. She to is bipolar, but doing pretty good these days with therapy,meds, and hard work. She really wants to get well. The more you know about bipolar the easier it is to help your family. Therapy and seeing a psychiatrist might help if they don't already. Your brother may benefit from seeking out therapy as well to help him deal with what is happening to his family. It must be very frustrating for him, talking may help him stay strong. Showing his support is one way to help, but if they don't want help it is harder for the person trying to help. I hope the very best for your family, I hope they find the help and wellness they need. Thank you for sharing and take good care of yourself.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on July 15, 2012:

Thank you for reading and your comment, yes bipolar is often a struggle and does take it's toll. But it is manageable for both the the bipolar and those who love them. Thank you for your kindness.

Colleen Lyon from Kansas City, Missouri on July 13, 2012:

Crazybeanrider, Great hub. Informative and personal. Thanks for sharing that with us all. Bi Polar is a very difficult burden to struggle with, both the patient and their loved ones pay a toll. Thanks for wtiring. Take care, C.

moonlake from America on July 11, 2012:

Thanks for all the information. I know very little about bipolar. My niece has it and her daughter has it. My niece tried suicide yesterday her second time this month. Her daughter tried hanging herself last month.

My brother is starting to go crazy. He loves his daughter and granddaughter but he feels helpless in helping them nothing seems to work. Voted Up.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on July 11, 2012:

Thank you so much for sharing your son's struggle with mental illness, it is never a road to travel. I agree the hospital can be a very safe haven when in the middle of an episode. I hope he gets the help he needs. They can offer him new coping skills and medication as well, i hope the very best for him And don't forget to take care of yourself. And good luck with your degree, the mental health field needs more people like you. be well.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on July 11, 2012:

Are you looking for a suicide hotline, i don't know of any bipolar hotlines, only online support groups and forums where people with bipolar can support each other.

Suicide hotline- 1-800-784-2433 / 1-800-273-8255

Write back here if you need someone to talk to. Be safe!

Sheress on July 10, 2012:

I love you all and I think everyone on this planet has experienced symptoms of bipolar ism and everyone on here has displayed courage and strength the people who are in denial I pray for the most and those who think they are better then mental illness, my 20 year old son who is on dean list 3rd year in college and model and musician is very popular in his school and he was committed in the hospital just yesterday because of his outburst and possible danger to self looking at him and talking to him when he is calm no one would ever believe he has mental illness sometimes he is in denial but being in hospital now scares him but I know deep in my heart that's where he needs to be right now he works I just pray his job remains understanding like they have been so far they know he is in hospital they just don't know why, he is super friendly and intelligent however he has triggers and I'm going back to school to get my degree in mental health field my o

Whole life has been to trying to help those with mental illness and disabilities we are one accident or episode away from ending up in a mental ward and that's nothing to be ashamed of, he and so many others will be proof that successful people who are truly happy can overcome and deal with their illness without it stoping them from living, when he becomes famous and everyone sees him on the big screen and behind the scenes writing and sharing his talent with the world he will also tell them the struggles he had to go through to get to that point and mental illness will not stop him from living, I truly love you all you are worth living you make the world go round and we find purpose because of you living, thank you everyone who has shared your very special stories may God bless you with long and happy lives

crystal on July 03, 2012:

i think I may have bipolar depression, and is like to know some hotlines :)

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on November 08, 2011:

Hi Tanesha-I have been exactly where you are, please call a hotline and talk to somebody if you have no else to talk too. They are very helpful. I have called them when I had nowhere else to turn. Your life is worth living no matter what you feel or think. Things can be bad, but ending your life is not the answer. You have a future, think of all the things you will miss. Right now it seems like nothing, but there is so very much. People who love you, people you love, your pets, life around you. Go to a favorite place and tell yourself you are worth staying in this life. I always walk near the water, it helps me see that living is better than dying. Tell yourself you don't want to die, and choose life-please. I want you to live.

Tanesha on November 07, 2011:

This hub has helped me tonight. I've been struggling with bipolar for 7 years. I've tried medication off and on but never felt like it was working. I don't have a very supportive family and I feel like I have no friends. I am currently contemplating suicide.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on September 14, 2011:

Hi princess g, this is true, but if we speak out against the stigma of mental illness perhaps some of the things people think of us won't be so negative. I appreciate your comment. Thank you :)

princess g on September 02, 2011:

we can't help what others think of us. We can only control what we think.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on August 17, 2011:

Thanks jasper, I have struggled with the shame of bipolar and do my best now to combat that stigma by speaking out against it when I can.

jasper420 on August 16, 2011:

great hub very informative I have Bipolar disoder and your hub is right on the money Im so glad I took time to read this thankyou so much nicey put together and well done

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on June 15, 2011:

Sassyk you are my new friend- I sure need those. I was doing well for some time but took an emotional strike harder than expected. My life has kind of changed forever. I am starting over trying to keep my coping strategies in place. I am seeing doctors everyday, so it is sort of a outpatient thing right now. I love you for caring and sharing how you cope. Thank you, i need to hear that. Getting through is going to be a rough one this time but i am going to do it. Thank you for the extra hope and confidence sassy girl.

Karen Anne Harris from Jacksonville, FL on June 13, 2011:

I found my way but it wasn't easy. If you have to be hospitalized, please be willing to go. I checked my self in both of the times I went and was so grateful that I had enough courage to do so. When I first started to take my medication, I felt stable but a few months later I was out of control again. I was so glad that I learned my triggers. I also had my family and my husband to watch out for certain behaviors. The last time I went into the hospital I was experiencing uncontrollable anger. Sometimes, I get afraid that I will get stuck in a mood. I remember one of the nurses told me that I was talking really fast. Right then I realized that I was having a manic episode. This illness is so hard to control but it can be done. I have learned that when an episode is coming on I have a fail safe mechanism that I do. If my mood change where if I get paranoid or I begin to get angry, I stomp my foot a couple of times or sometimes I wear a rubber band on my wrist and snap it to bring me back. If it is really severe, I place an ice cube in my hand . I will have you in my thoughts and I am going to check up on you to see how you are doing. We have to support each other :) God bless you.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on June 13, 2011:

First i'm happy to say sassyk you have found your way. Albeit a rocky one. Often times independent doctors just don't have time for the psychiatric community as it is as complex as any illness they treat everyday. Medication and therapy work for me. Altough I am in troubling times I may be hospitalized, buy find it refreshing you found what you need exactly. Stay well my friend.

Karen Anne Harris from Jacksonville, FL on June 02, 2011:

Thank you for sharing. I was diagnosed with Bipolar II and P.T.S.D. However, before I knew what was going on I thought I was going crazy. My mood would change from suicidal to depression to anger in less than an hour. Then I thought I was invincible. I had no control over my emotions. I finally checked myself in the hospital because I made the mistake of going to my family doctor. I just want to express to anyone who do not know......please go to a psychiatrist for a proper diagnosis when it comes to your mental health. Because if you are treated with the wrong medications it can make it worse. I am happy to say that after a few medication adjustments and therapy, Lamictal and the coping skills I learned has worked wonders for me. I haven't had any major mood swings. Also, anyone with bipolar should not be ashamed. Lol....I embrace it. It gives me my creativity. You may feel comfortable in group will be surprised to see how many people share our illness and have similar stories. God bless you.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on January 03, 2011:

arb-I hope people will understand mental illnes is not something to be ashamed of. We are people just like other people who may have a disease. Thank you for reading and your comment :)

arb from oregon on January 01, 2011:

Well, crazybeanrider, you've opened a real can of beans, haven't you. Congradulations!

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on October 24, 2010:

Hi Panic- I am very sorry for your loss. I am so sorry your neice had to go through so much pain, and was not able to find peace. That is the saddest part of mental illness, sometimes there is none. I get so angry when someone tells me there is no such thing as mental illness, your neice did everything she could to heal and the battle was to great. Your comment made me cry, because it hurts when someone tries so hard and isn't able to find comfort. Thank you for sharing, and I hope you are doing okay. My thoughts are with you and your neice.

Panic on October 23, 2010:

My niece was bipolar. She had the most severe form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that her psychiatrists had ever seen. She also suffered from schizophrenic episodes and severe clinical depression. As an RN she understood her condition. She wanted to live but she didn't know how to with so much mental anguish. Nobody could help her. No medications sufficed. As a woman of faith she struggled desperately and prayed continuously, on her knees, for hours at a time. she committed suicide

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on June 28, 2010:

Hi mlbgriffey24-

First off thank you for sharing so much about yourself so openly. I am sorry things have been difficult with your relationship. If you have bipolar maintaining a relationship is one of the hardet things to do.

I would open up with your therapist. Then I would find a psychiatrist and go from there. Perhaps between your therapist and a psychiatrist you can get a proper diagnosis and work from there, and start putting your life back together again.

Try joining some support groups in your area if you have them. You can find answers there. There are online groups as well that can offer information to questions you may have. Read the hubs that relate to bipolar, there are many.

But I would open up to my therapist, she can direct you to the right places to get an approprieate diagnosis.If you need to talk or want to know something more specific feel free to contact me.


mlbgriffey24 on June 27, 2010:

i am a 23 year old college student. i have had a hard past with going through parents divorce, a 4yr relationship breakup, and many other things. i always thought to myself that these past experiances are the things effecting me and that why i have acted the way i have been. I not too long ago came to realize after i read more articles on bi-polar disorder that i may be affected by this. all signs point to yes with my behavior and the way i have treated the ones i love around me. my main concern, and biggest wake up call to me maybe having bi-polar, is the past relationship i had been in. i met her at school, quickly fell in love and had never been happier. but with uncontrollable actions, behavior i couldn't explain, words i said but didn't mean them a few hours later, and constant depression and fights, the relationship ended. i have been given numerous chances to make it work again because she cares so much about me but it finally took until now for her to finally let me go and for me to realize i had more than just a normal problem. We had plans of marriage, kids, a bright future, everything. i had everything that i ever wanted and now it seems to all be gone because of something i couldn't control.

with that said, i have been to a counselor for many sessions this summer, but i have never thought of bringing up that i may have this disorder. although i am scared, i want answers and i want them asap. i cant keep living like this. i want my old life back and i want my ex back in my life and that can only happen if i get help.

is there any advice that you can give me for what i should expect or where i should go from here? thank you for listening and your article has been a great help.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on June 25, 2010:

Hi Charlotte, I am really happy that your choice of treatment is working for you. However it doesn't work that way for everyone. Myself included. I have gone the no med route so many times, with very serious ramifications. I go to therapy religiously, my life has been stress free and almost perfect on many occasions, and I still am affected by mood cycles that almost destroyed my life. I will say this, It is the individual, how every person deals with the severity of their illness, what form they have,the environment, but psychosis is psychosis. How do you make hallucinations go away? How do you in the grips of an auditory psychosis come out of that without medication? Therapy alone can't make those voices disappear.

But I do applaud your wellness, and your approach to life.Thank you for sharing your thoughts.I do believe that an orthomolecular treatment is possible, I even have written up some treatment options, but the cost is astronomical, so I stick with the medications that work for me right now.


charlotte on June 24, 2010:

i stopped lithium back in 2000. i have not been hospitalized since 1995. i no longer depend on conventional medications. i believe i am the author of my life. i have a therapist and i take homeopathic remedies. i have learned that i don't have to fear going insane. i slow myself down. i make certain i get my sleep. i take care of myself the way any basic human being would need to. i don't spend money recklessly. i no longer have extreme highs or lows. i will always have strong emotions. i am genetically bipolar. however, genetic expression is affected by environment. i have learned to take better care of myself with the help of my therapist. as a child i was abused and neglected. mistreat a dog and it will behave odd. mistreat a human and you get mental illness, expression of dna, nevertheless, i am not a chemical imbalance. i am human with a soul and spirit. and bipolar disorder is much deeper than lithium. in my working life i suffered more trauma. i am attracted to it, because trauma is familiar. a baby is not born thinking, "i would like to kill myself." these thoughts stem from our culture. they were handed to me. i had to swallow them. i no longer believe the labels. i am love. not self-loathing.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on January 19, 2010:

Hi RoadRage,

Thank you for the comment. It is awful the collateral damage we leave behind. The relationships that cannot withstand the anguish bipolar leaves. As hard as it is on us, I can't imagine the horror it is for those around us.

I definitely understand your struggle. I am glad you are staying strong and getting help. It is hard, but keep on with the fight. :)

RoadRage712 from Everywhere, United States/Canada on January 18, 2010:

Great Hub.

For me the depression is the worst part. From the failed attempts at suicide to the dissolving of my marriage of 28 years and the disaffection of my 19 year old daughter.

Every day is a struggle but I continue with therapy and the doctor trying different medicatons.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on November 14, 2009:

Hi Donald,

Nice to meet you. My mania's are my biggest downfalls. I have been treatment resistant for some time now. I have some serious psychosis within my manic cycles. As well as mixed episodes. So it has been very exhausting to say the least.

At this time in my life I am am questioning myself, and who I am. The bipolar person or someone else. Either way it is a part of me, so that is the part I need to grasp.

I am happy you like my hubs.

I checked your website out and it is fantastic. So much information and interesting reading. I joined your Google friend so I can keep up with your blog.

Donald Kern on November 13, 2009:

Dear crazybeanrider,

Thank you for the hub article. I too suffer from Bipolar Disorder and longterm(35 years with the diagnosis and 25 years on medication without an episode.)My manias were my biggest obstacle to health. Psychotic much of the time, I imagined myself the planet manager, telepathic and the leader of a network which controlled everything! It took me 12 years to accept that the "me" I wanted to be, the ecstatic days and weeks of living in a fantasy, were a delusion I needed to put behind me. Mania can be so seductive. Since then I have been able to rebuild my life and enjoy having "a life". Thank you for pointing out this delusional aspect of Bipolar Disorder and the need for treatment. I enjoy your hub articles.

Dr Kulsum Mehmood from Nagpur, India on January 07, 2009:

A very well written hub crazybeanrider. Thank you for sharing your info. This info. will help many of us.

RoadLessTraveled from Florida on September 27, 2008:

This hub could be about my life too. You are so right about the stigma and the shame that goes with it. Often I wish there was a cure but my doctor says it's a disease just like Diabetes is. It sucks. But I'm now finding that writing about is like therapy and I'm looking for a local support group. Have you been to one? Does it really help?

Thanks for sharing - - RoadLessTraveled

akeejaho from Some where in this beautiful world! on September 01, 2008:

Isn't it ironic that not one of the meds listed in the treatment of Bipolar are a cure. They merely mask the problem in an attempt to control it? How sad is that?

While they are hunting for a cure for all the other ailments of mankind, they throw mood enhancers and the like at us. Bummer.

Nice Hub, and another great job. Happy bipolaring.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on August 15, 2008:

Thank you for your kind comments. I am just beginning to really write about the experiences of bipolar and other mental illness's. I am glad you enjoy them. :-)

madellen from British Columbia, Canada on August 14, 2008:

another good one. I enjoy your hubs.