Mental Health: Bipolar Disorder, What is it?

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Recently, we’ve been hearing about the words bipolar disorder because of Mariah Carey’s interview with People where she said she was first diagnosed with it in 2001.

Indeed in 2001, Carey got hospitalized for physical and emotional breakdown. She said she opted to suffer in silence for fear of the stigma attached to the illness that may very well cause the end of her career.

Carey added how she “lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear” lest someone exposed her. But the past two years had been tough for her to the point that her disorder became “too heavy a burden to carry.” She admitted, “I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music.”

Contrary to her fears, her revelation was received by the public well and Carey took to Instagram to tell her fans, “I’ve been hard at work, feeling inspired by each of your stories and uplifted by your overwhelming support. Let’s continue to encourage each other on our journeys.”

Further, Carey says her disorder can be “incredibly isolating” but says firmly that, “It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”

But what does it mean to have a bipolar disorder, really?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes “unusual mood changes along with unusual sleep habits, activity levels, thoughts, or behavior.” Patients sometimes “feel very happy and ‘up’ and are much more energetic and active than usual (manic episode).” Sometimes they “feel very sad and ‘down’ have low energy, and are much less active (depression or a depressive episode).” Moreover, these mood changes can last for a week or two or even longer. In addition, patients are also likely to hurt themselves or have thoughts of or attempt suicide.

NIMH said people having a manic episode may:

  • Feel very “up” or “high”
  • Feel “jumpy” or “wired”
  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Become more active than usual
  • Talk really fast about a lot of different things
  • Be agitated, irritable, or “touchy”
  • Feel like their thoughts are going very fast
  • Think they can do a lot of things at once
  • Do risky things, like spend a lot of money or have reckless sex

While people having a depressive episode may:

  • Feel very “down” or sad
  • Sleep too much or too little
  • Feel like they can’t enjoy anything
  • Feel worried and empty
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Forget things a lot
  • Eat too much or too little
  • Feel tired or “slowed down”
  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Think about death or suicide

No, bipolar disorder has no cure as of the moment but with consistent treatment through therapy and medication, these mood changes can be managed. Bipolar disorder treatment also means maintaining a regular sleep schedule, eating healthy food, exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol and drugs, and then there’s stress management.

If you have friends and family who suffer from bipolar disorder—or yourself—help them get treatment because receiving treatment is the best way to start feeling better. Read more about the disorder through the NIHM website or email them at [email protected].

More importantly, if you or anyone you know is thinking of hurting themselves, it is imperative that you follow these reminders:

  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Call your doctor.
  • Call 911 or go to the emergency room.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, toll-free:
  • 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The TTY number is 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).

Thoughts? Share it with us in the comments section below.

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  1. soft & fluffy

    In my little community I have the dubious distinction of having known , and had to deal with , the 3 worst cases of bipolar disorder . All three individuals were (straight) guys who were incredibly talented and creative but the mood swings and interaction with others was totally unpredictable and nearly impossible to deal with. And that comes from someone who’s been suffering from depression for 30 years ! It’s quite different than ‘regular’ depression .
    Whether these guys knew what was going on with them I don’t know but if any of the readers on here have had it suggested to them that they are bipolar or suspect that they are please seek help. Life will be so much better for yourself and everyone else around you and it could be as simple as a pill away .

  2. TiredOfIt

    Most gay guys I’ve known over 50 years are/were untreated bipolars, now that I think of it. It goes with the territory.

  3. Matt

    Of course, this being Mariah Carey, drug addiction could not be the cause of her bizarre behavior over the years. With her career completely played out and under fire in a lawsuit, she needs something to bring attention to the former and be an excuse to mitigate damages.

  4. Chris

    I’m going to respectfully disagree. Mental illness is not isolated to gay men who certainly don’t any additional stigma from men as judge mental as you.

  5. Chris

    As a DIAGNOSED bi-polar man, I can tell you that it’s not all demoralizing and stigma driven. Granted, there are so many who THINK they know about the disorder but have never actually taken the time to read about it, talk with someone who is in treatment, and they themselves are certainly in no clinical expertise to pass diagnosis. A therapist once said to me that the one in the bunch who realizes a problem and seeks help is likely the HEALTHIEST of them all. Instead, our community says “oh, she must be a bipolar queen” and most have no idea what it’s all about.

    Personally, I wear it like a badge of honor. I know I have a problem. I do all I can to regulate it. I NEVER miss a med dose. Do I have episodes? Sure. I’d like to point out however, that most “normal” guys still have plenty of episodic issues of their own.

    If we’d all just quite casting judgement and slinging around stigmatic words, more would likely be inclined to seek out and get help. Life is better when it’s all managed.

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