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A teen heroine alternates between episodes of drug-fueled mania and deep depression after the death of her father and a bad breakup.
Far from the fictional portrayals, about six million real adults, teens and children struggle with bipolar disorder (BD) in the U.S. It’s often diagnosed before the age of 25, and once it is, BD doesn't go away.
For those who have BD themselves or a family member who does, understanding the disorder is an important step in managing it.
All of us have ups and downs. Sometimes we feel happy. Other times, we’re sad. It’s normal. The highs (mania) and lows (depression) of bipolar disease are very different.
During periods of mania, individuals become hyperactive. Their thoughts race. Their behavior can be risky. They don’t sleep and can grow irritable. Rage can rear its head, too.
A depressive episode can make people feel helpless, hopeless and worthless. They may not sleep – or sleep all the time. They have no energy or interest in the things they used to do. Many consider ending their life.
Symptoms make it hard for the person to function. It may even put them in danger. It also makes it hard for friends, family members and coworkers to cope with the situation.
People diagnosed with bipolar disorder won’t outgrow it. It’s not temporary. It won’t get better on its own. If left untreated, the disease can cause serious problems. That’s why it’s important to get help if you think you or someone you love suffers from the disease.
A doctor has the tools to diagnose BD and offer help. Along with gathering medical history, a doctor may ask questions about symptoms, stress and support. They may even talk with family members to get deeper insights.
There are actually four types of BD.
On average, the lifespan of someone diagnosed with BD is nine to 17 years shorter than average. Research shows up to 20 percent of untreated BD sufferers end their own lives. Still, many die prematurely because they are never diagnosed or receive the treatment they need to cope with daily life.
Good medical help makes all the difference for people struggling with bipolar disorder. Working closely with care providers, they can manage their disease and enjoy more balanced, healthier lives.
Medicines. They make up the main treatment for BD. A combination may be used to stabilize extreme mood changes. It’s important to take them as directed. Don’t stop, even if you start to feel better.
Counseling. “Talk therapy” or “psychotherapy” – can help you work out some of the problems caused by your illness. Support groups can help, too.
Self-awareness. Learning about BD and how to recognize the early onset of symptoms can help prevent or lessen the severity of an episode.
Lifestyle choices. A healthy diet, exercise, good sleep habits, meditation and prayer can all play a role in nurturing the body. They won’t take the place of medication and counseling, though. Always do them along with your prescribed treatments.
If you have concerns about bipolar disorder, talk with your doctor. It’s the first step in finding the right kind of help for you or your family member.
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