Guest Column: Living with bipolar is tough but help is out there

Counsellor Jason Hanson
Counsellor Jason Hanson

Imagine feeling elated, untouchable, on top of the world, euphoric, like you couldachieve anything.

Then imagine suddenly feeling worthless, despondent, hopeless, like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and even worse, nothing to live for.

For most people, if they experience this it is often through a traumatic, life changing event.

For an individual with bipolar, it can be a regular occurrence without any apparent trigger.

We tend to call it bipolar due to the moods experienced being at ‘polar’ ends of the spectrum ranging from euphoria to hopelessness.

Bipolar is considered to be the 4fourth most common mental illness globally after depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. A report in 2016 found that approximately two per cent of the population were thought to be living with bipolar.

Perhaps a more alarming statistic is that 60% of these people had not been properly diagnosed or were not receiving appropriate treatment.

There are three types of bipolar disorder, which are bipolar I, bipolar II and cyclothemia (sometimes referred to as cyclothemic disorder).

Bipolar I usually involves severe bouts of mania and depression, while bipolar 2 consists of milder manic feelingscombined with severe depression.

Cyclothemia is thought of as being a milder form where moods are less severe at both ends of the scale and tend not to last as long.

Due to the lack of severity and longevity with the moods in cyclothemia, it can be difficult to diagnose as most people would not consult a doctor.

There is a misconception that bipolar means people swing from mania to depression constantly.

This is not accurate and some people can have extended periods of

mania before they are overcome by severe depression.

It is not uncommon for people to experience manic episodes for several weeks.

If you consider that a person can experience an extended period of euphoria, which is suddenly without warning or reason superseded by feelings of extreme despair, it is easy to see why the suicide rate in people has been estimated to be 
about 20 times higher than somebody without the condition.

In addition to this, also alarming is the fact it has been suggested that on average it can take ten-and-a-half years for a correct diagnosis, often with more than one misdiagnosis along the way.

Living with bipolar can be extremely difficult with people constantly in fear of when their moods are going to change.

People experiencing positive feelings can have these reduced significantly, by a fear of what is about to follow.

If you feel like you are struggling with turbulent moods, of course it could be several things.

But it is always worth seeking medical advice to ensure you get the right support as soon as possible. Whilst mood stabilisers may not cure the condition, they can help to better manage the symptoms.