Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder Can Feel Like Riding A Roller Coaster
Bipolar disorder is one of the most severe mental disorders a person can have. The lives of those suffering from it are hugely impacted by it.
While other disorders, such as depression and anxiety, may function in cycles or waves, bipolar disorder requires constant, vigilant management. The disorder is typically managed by daily medication and talk therapy.
The trademark of bipolar disorder is a major mood imbalance. The person may go from depressed to a manic state, or may experience other shifts in mood that affect the person’s ability to function. People who have bipolar disorder often have a hard time sleeping. It’s not unusual for someone unmedicated with this disorder to be up for two or three days straight, because their mind and body simply won’t let them sleep.
How do these symptoms affect the loved ones of these people? They have a big impact. Parents, siblings, friends, and co-workers see these individuals pass between depression and mania, and they see what a toll it takes on them. One of the realities for loved ones is they begin to understand that they cannot expect the person to be consistent they know the mood and behavior can significantly change.
What Causes Schizoaffective Disorder
Researchers dont know the exact cause of schizoaffective disorder. They believe several factors are involved:
- Genetics: Schizoaffective disorder might be hereditary. Parents may pass down the tendency to develop the condition to their children. Schizoaffective disorder can also occur in several members of an extended family.
- Brain chemistry: People with the disorder may have an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals help nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. An imbalance can throw off these connections, leading to symptoms.
- Brain structure: Abnormalities in the size or composition of different brain regions may be associated with developing schizoaffective disorder.
- Environmental factors: Certain environmental factors may trigger schizoaffective disorder in people who inherited a higher risk. Factors may include highly stressful situations, emotional trauma or certain viral infections.
- Drug use: Using psychoactive drugs, such as marijuana, may lead to the development of schizoaffective disorder.
Put Safeguards In Place
Its also important to safeguard your physical and financial safety. For example, if your loved ones driving grows risky during a manic episode, then insist on driving or decline to be a passenger in her car. Money can also be a major problem. If you are dependent upon your loved one in order to pay rent or bills, then secure your payment ahead of time. Set up automatic deposits from an account that isnt easily accessed, or if finances are coming from a third party, arrange to get the money from them directly. If you have access to joint accounts, consider placing limits on credit cards purchases or cash withdrawals.
Surveys report that people with bipolar disorder are almost twice as likely to get fired or laid off from their job, so having a plan in place for financial stability is important.
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What Have You Learned As A Result Of Your Experiences
Living with bipolar, often for years, teaches you a lot about yourself, about mental health services, about medicationand sadly often about stigma, shame, and discrimination.
Id say for me it was a key driver for learning about mebut also a red herring as I feel I vested too much of my own identity in clinging to the life-raft of the diagnosis as an explanation of my life in my early 20sagain though, there are a range of perspectives:
Brian talks of the possibility of recovery:
Despite what others may tell you, or what you might believe, recovery is possible. I never thought I could be a worthwhile human being and have something meaningful to offer.
That’s just illness speak and the effects of learned stigma. It doesn’t need to be that way.
Anna points to learning about what is important in life:
I have learnt that I am more resilient than I could have ever imagined. I have discovered that there is more to life than getting a degree or a good job. I have learnt that I have amazing friends who never stopped believing in me, even when I couldn’t believe in myself.
Hannah draws on a theme park analogy to talk about assembling your team of helpers:
I feel like I’m riding a constant rollercoaster of moods. There are people who are too scared to come to the theme park, those that will hop on rides with you and those that watch sensibly in awe and sickness from a distance minding your bags.
All of those people have a valid and useful part to play in your life.
Take Care Of Yourself
In order to help your loved one, youll first you have to take care of yourself. If youre worn thin and running on empty, you wont have any reserves left to offer. Make sure to tend to your own needs for example, if your loved ones erratic behaviors have made friends start to keep their distance, find time to see them on your own. Dont forget about hobbies or neglect your usual healthy habits.
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Living With Bipolar Disorder Can A Bipolar Person Live A Normal Life
If a bipolar person can indeed live a normal life, what might that look like? Dr. Nelson gave an encouraging picture of what living with bipolar disorder can be like:
Of course, there is no normal, per se, but you can live with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, if you manage your health, follow a healthy regimen that controls symptoms and take care of yourself. For many, the diagnosis of a mental disorder leads to feelings that they will not be functional, a lot of fear and a lot of unknowns.
In fact, the reality of life with bipolar disorder may turn out to be a good deal better than what a person might fear, according to Dr. Nelson. He said that many people with bipolar disorder, knowing that they need to take care of themselves, might actually do better than normal, because they are conscientious about their health.
Dr. Nelson used the analogy of living with diabetes. He noted that many diabetic patients are so committed to their healthy diet that they are the healthiest eater in the familybecause they know that eating poorly will affect their health more intensely.
Coping When A Loved One Has Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is unpredictable. Take it one day at a time. Healing doesnt happen overnight, and its completely normal to worry about your relative during their mania and depressive episodes. You may fear them making reckless or irresponsible decisions, and harming themselves during an emotional low.
Bipolar disorder can be a lifelong struggle. The more you learn about the condition, the easier itll be to offer support. People with bipolar disorder cannot control their emotions or moods. Remember, bipolar disorder isnt a sign of weakness. It is a mental illness. Avoid insensitive or negative comments like snap out of it, or get a grip.
Let them know youre there to help in any way you can. Offering practical assistance can reduce their stress level and help keep their emotions under control. For example, help out around their house or offer to research local support groups for them.
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Tip : Keep Stress To A Minimum
Stress can trigger episodes of mania and depression in people with bipolar disorder, so keeping it under control is extremely important. Know your limits, both at home and at work or school. Dont take on more than you can handle and take time to yourself if youre feeling overwhelmed.
Learn how to relax.Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and guided imagery can be very effective at reducing stress and keeping you on an even keel. A daily relaxation practice can improve your mood and keep depression at bay.
Make leisure time a priority. Do things for no other reason than that it feels good to do them. Go to a funny movie, take a walk on the beach, listen to music, read a good book, or talk to a friend. Doing things just because they are fun is no indulgence. Play is an emotional and mental health necessity.
Appeal to your senses.Stay calm and energized by appealing to your senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Listen to music that lifts your mood, place flowers where you will see and smell them, massage your hands and feet, or sip a warm drink.
Does Someone With Schizoaffective Disorder Need To Be Hospitalized
Most people with this disorder can get outpatient treatment. They go to a clinic or hospital for treatment during the day and then return home. Sometimes, people have severe symptoms, though, or theyre in danger of harming themselves or others. They may need to be hospitalized to stabilize their condition.
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What Is Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizoaffective disorder is a serious mental health condition. It has features of two different disorders:
- Schizo means the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. This brain disorder changes how a person thinks, acts and expresses emotions. It also affects how someone perceives reality and relates to others.
- Affective refers to a mood disorder, or severe changes in a persons mood, energy and behavior.
Theres no cure for schizoaffective disorder. But treatment can help people manage symptoms and improve their quality of life.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms
A person with bipolar disorder will go through episodes of mania and at other times experience episodes of depression . These aren’t the normal periods of happiness and sadness that everyone experiences from time to time. Instead, the episodes are intense or severe mood swings, like a pendulum that keeps arcing higher and higher.
Symptoms of mania include:
- anger, worry, and anxiety
- thoughts of death or suicide
In adults, episodes of mania or depression usually last for weeks or months, although they can be shorter in length. In children and adolescents, though, these episodes can be much shorter, and a kid or teen can even go back and forth between mania and depression throughout the day.
Episodes of mania or depression may happen irregularly and follow an unpredictable pattern or they may be linked, with a manic episode always following a period of depression, or vice versa. Sometimes episodes have a seasonal pattern. Mania in the spring, for example, may be followed by depression in the winter.
Between episodes, someone with bipolar disorder usually returns to normal functioning. For some people, though, there is little or no “break period” between their cycles. These mood swing cycles can change slowly or rapidly, with rapid cycling between mania and depression being much more common in women, children, and adolescents.
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Tip : Watch What You Put In Your Body
From the food you eat to the vitamins and drugs you take, the substances you put in your body have an impact on the symptoms of bipolar disorderfor better or worse.
Eat a healthy diet. There is an undeniable link between food and mood. For optimal mood, eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limit your fat and sugar intake. Space your meals out through the day, so your blood sugar never dips too low. High-carbohydrate diets can cause mood crashes, so they should also be avoided. Other mood-damaging foods include chocolate, caffeine, and processed foods.
Get your omega-3s.Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease mood swings in bipolar disorder. You can increase your intake of omega-3 by eating cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut, and sardines, soybeans, flaxseeds, canola oil, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. Omega-3 is also available as a nutritional supplement.
Avoid alcohol and drugs. Drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamines can trigger mania, while alcohol and tranquilizers can trigger depression. Even moderate social drinking can upset your emotional balance. Substance use also interferes with sleep and may cause dangerous interactions with your medications. Attempts to self-medicate or numb your symptoms with drugs and alcohol only create more problems.
Get more help
DBSA Wellness Toolbox Resources to help keep track of your symptoms and progress.
Bipolar Self-help resources.
Hotlines and support
How To Cope With Bipolar Disorder
No matter how down or out of control you feel, its important to remember that youre not powerless when it comes to bipolar disorder. Beyond the treatment you get from your doctor or therapist, there are many things you can do for yourself to reduce your symptoms and stay on track.
Living well with bipolar disorder requires certain adjustments. Like diabetics who take insulin or recovering alcoholics who avoid drinking, if you have bipolar disorder, its important to make healthy choices for yourself. Making these healthy choices will help you keep your symptoms under control, minimize mood episodes, and take control of your life.
Managing bipolar disorder starts with proper treatment, including medication and therapy. But there is so much more you can do to help yourself on a day-to-day basis. These tips can help you influence the course of your illness, enabling you to take greater control over your symptoms, to stay well longer, and to quickly rebound from any mood episode or relapse.
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Build On Your Circle Of Friends
Consider volunteering, take a class, become a dog walker, or join a club or organization whatever interests you. And put your focus where it is valued. I found myself spending a lot of time trying to get people who didnt like me to like me, Lutes said, instead of focusing on the people who did like me and spending more time there.
What It’s Like To Have Bipolar By People Who Have Bipolar
Around 1% of us will develop bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression.
People with bipolar experience both episodes of severe depression, and episodes of mania overwhelming joy, excitement or happiness, huge energy, a reduced need for sleep, and reduced inhibitions.
The experience of bipolar is uniquely personal. No two people have exactly the same experience.
Bipolar disorder has been associated with genius and with creativity. It is certainly true that a number of contemporary high achievers and creatives have spoken of their experiences, and throughout history it is possible to recognise bipolar type traits in the artistic, political and academic spheres. But what is it actually like?
I was diagnosed with bipolar in my late teens, in my first year at university. The diagnosis have shaped my adult identity and experiences.
This week I have been collecting answers to four simple questions from a range of people who have bipolar, to demonstrate the range of experiences out there, and some of the things that help.
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How Does A Psychiatrist Or Psychologist Diagnose Schizoaffective Disorder
Mental health professionals use specially designed interview and assessment tools to diagnose psychotic disorders. They listen to the person describe the symptoms. They also watch the persons speech, movement and behavior.
Providers figure out if these symptoms and behaviors match a specific disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition . The American Psychiatric Association publishes the DSM-5. Its considered the reference book for mental health conditions.
According to the DSM-5, a person has schizoaffective disorder if they have:
- Periods of uninterrupted mental illness, such as having symptoms of depression or another mood disorder for a long time.
- Episode of mania, major depression or both while also having symptoms of schizophrenia.
- At least two weeks of psychotic symptoms without mood symptoms.
- No evidence of a substance use disorder or medications that may be causing the symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms Of Schizoaffective Disorder
Symptoms of schizoaffective disorder vary from one person to the next. They can range from mild to severe.
Someone with schizoaffective disorder experiences psychotic symptoms. They also experience severe mood changes, with symptoms of depression, mania or both. A person with schizoaffective disorder will have psychotic symptoms that occur alone and with mood changes.
- Delusions .
- Hallucinations .
- Inability to tell real from imaginary.
- Disorganized speech .
- Unclear thinking.
- Lack of emotion in facial expression and speech.
- Poor motivation.
- Self-destructive or dangerous behavior .
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How Common Is Bipolar Disorder
- Globally, 46 million people around the world have bipolar disorder.
- One survey of 11 countries found the lifetime prevalence of bipolar disorder was 2.4%. The U.S. had a 1% prevalence of bipolar type I, which was notably higher than many other countries in this survey.
- Annually, an estimated 2.8% of U.S. adults have a bipolar disorder diagnosis .
- Of all mood disorders, those with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder were found to have the highest likelihood of being classified with severe impairment .
- The past-year prevalence of bipolar disorder is similar in females and males .
Living With Bipolar Disorder
Teens normally face ups and downs with school, family, work, and friends. Dealing with bipolar disorder at the same time is a very difficult challenge. One 16-year-old reader who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 14 wrote to us about the experience:
“I had mood swings that were the worst anyone could have ever seen. My poor parents thought I hated them, but really I was sick and didn’t even realize it. But now I am on medications for my disorder and I live a pretty normal life. My family and friends support me, and they, along with my therapist, have helped me get to the point where I am today. I just want other teens to know that even though it is hard at times to be bipolar, things will get better.”
If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, taking your medications as prescribed, reporting any changes in how you feel or function, and participating in therapy will be key to living a successful life. In addition to treatment, making a few lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress, eating well, and getting enough sleep and exercise can help someone who is living with the condition. And many teens find it helps to join a support network such as a local support group for people with bipolar disorder.
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