Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is defined by rapid mood swings.
Not the kind that you get as a teenager when hormones run riot, though.
These mood swings are much, much more dramatic.
On good days, those with bipolar feel like they’re so invincible they can fly.
On bad days, their depression is so crippling that just getting out of bed is the hardest thing in the world.
There are several different kinds of bipolar disorder, and they’re defined by how quickly the person switches from depressions and manias.
A milder form of manic depression is called cyclothymia, but don’t be fooled by this ‘milder’ form—it can be just as disruptive to a person’s life even if the mood swings aren’t viewed as so dramatic.
The most important thing you need to remember when writing about manic depression, or bipolar disorder, is that it is something that people have not something that people are.
Don’t define those that have bipolar by their illness.
Many people say, ‘she’s bipolar’, but you’d never define someone with depression by saying ‘she’s a depressive’. It’s unfair for those that have bipolar to be defined purely by their mental health.
Instead, say that they have bipolar.
Causes of bipolar disorder
Some people are more susceptible to developing bipolar disorder than others.
It’s not always a condition that someone is born with, but they can develop it due to traumatic instances.
An example of this is Catherine Zeta-Jones, who developed bipolar after her husband was diagnosed with throat cancer.
There are people who have it their whole lives, though, such as Carrie Fisher or Stephen Fry.
Symptoms of mania
- Feelings of severe overconfidence/invincibility
- Extreme happiness/elation
- Talking quickly
- Increased sex drive
- Lack of social inhibitions
- Abusing drugs and alcohol
- Being full of energy
- Getting easily distracted
- Being easily irritated
- Not craving sleep
- Lack of an appetite
- Delusions—hallucinations or illogical thoughts
- Making risky decisions
People with bipolar may also go through episodes of hypomania. These aren’t as extreme as manic episodes and don’t have any psychotic symptoms either. They also tend to last for a shorter amount of time and are therefore easier to manage.
Symptoms of depression
- Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
- Lack of energy
- Lack of sex drive
- Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
- Difficultly sleeping
- Delusions or illogical thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
Mixed episodes are complicated because they’re a combination of depression and mania.
This makes it difficult for the person to work out how they’re feeling, and can be confusing for them and the people around them.
This confusion can lead to even more erratic and inconsistent behaviour.
Treatment for bipolar disorder
Treatment varies from person-to-person.
Some people don’t seek any treatment at all—many people with bipolar feel that it’s bipolar that makes them more creative, and the euphoric feelings of mania are worth the feelings of depression that go alongside it.
For those that do seek treatment, a mood stabiliser such as lithium is prescribed.
Much like with any mental health issue, there are varying levels of it.
Some people can live their lives as normal with the people around them oblivious to what’s really going on except for what they may dismiss as the odd quirk.
Other people find it debilitating and struggle to cope with everyday life.
Some people may even flit between the two—some days they’re fine, while others they can’t cope.
The most important thing to remember is a point I’ve mentioned already: mental health issues are only part of what makes someone who they are. Nobody should be defined by something that’s out of their control.
If you found this post useful…
I’ve also written guides on:
- How to write panic attacks
- How to write about grief
- How to write a psychopath
- How to write a sociopath
- How to write ADHD
- How to write about stress
- How to write depression
If there’s another mental health guide you’d like me to write about, get in touch!