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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 (NAMI). 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 800-273-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 479-215-3190 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.

General News on 10/10/2018

Print Headline: Four facts to illuminate bipolar disorder

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