Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that impacts the day to day wellbeing of the person afflicted. Bipolar was formally known as manic depressive disorder or manic depressive illness. This is because of the two extremes that the person will experience; extreme highs and extreme lows. These shifts in moods impact one’s ability to focus, their energy levels and ability to tend to daily responsibilities.
There are three types of bipolar disorder. Each of these three types all experiences the “ups” of high productivity and energy levels and the “downs” of extreme indifference, sadness and/or even hopelessness. The DSM-5 requirements for diagnosis for each type include:
- Criteria have been met for at least one manic episode
- Reasoning for the manic episode is not better described by another mental disorder like schizophrenia
- Note: major depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes are common in bipolar disorders but are not required for diagnosis
Bipolar I disorder is a manic depressive disorder that can exist with and without psychotic episodes. Bipolar II disorder consists of manic and depressive swings that may not inhibit daily functioning (less severe than Bipolar I). Cyclothymic disorder is a cyclic disorder that causes episodes of hypomania and depression. These cycles are longer than those in Bipolar I and Bipolar and last between a year to several years each.
Facts You Should Know
- Bipolar Disorder occurs in up to 2.5% of the population
- It is possible to experience both mania and depression at the same time
- It is easy to confuse depression and bipolar because depression tends to dominate the cycles of someone suffering from bipolar
- The average person has 4 episodes a year during their first 10 years of experiencing symptoms
- An estimated 51% of people suffering from bipolar do not seek proper treatment and 10%-15% of these people suffer from suicide
- Bipolar disorder is also likely to occur at the same time as other mental health problems including anxiety disorders, eating disorders, addiction (specifically alcohol and drugs), and attention deficit disorders.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
Genetics is noted as one of the potential causes of bipolar disorder. If a child’s parents suffer from bipolar, they are more likely to as well. However, this is not guaranteed one way or another. That is if a child’s parents have bipolar, then the likeliness for the child to have bipolar increases, but it is not guaranteed. If the child has one parent who suffers from bipolar, the chances of them also having it are about 10%-25%. If the child has two parents that suffer from bipolar, then their chances increase to 10%-50% chance of also having bipolar.
High stress can lead to bipolar disorder, although stress alone does not cause bipolar disorder. Some events that could be potentially triggering include a divorce, a death in the family or financial problems. Prolonged periods of stress may also be triggering, even if the stress is not as severe as it would be from one giant event happening. A person’s ability to handle the stress may also play a factor in how triggering the stressful situation will be.
While brain scans alone cannot predict or diagnose bipolar disorder, doctors have noted some differences in the brain structures of those who suffer from bipolar from those who do not.
The common treatments for bipolar include medication, therapy and in more extreme situations, hospitalization or intensive support groups. There are natural ways to supplement the treatment process. Here are some simple ways to naturally handle bipolar disorder.
Diet makes a big difference in your body’s ability to function. If you are struggling with any sort of mental health condition, one of the first things you should attempt to do is decrease inflammation in your body (through diet) and clean out the foods you are eating. Excess weight can cause additional problems and increases one’s likeliness to suffer from other mental health diseases such as anxiety. A study from 2013 showed that people who suffer from bipolar are more likely to binge eat. Being overweight can cause complications with healing from bipolar disorder.
Additionally, excess weight can be a side effect of medications commonly prescribed to those who suffer from bipolar disorder. If this is something you are experiencing, speak with your doctor immediately.
Decreasing the inflammation in your body raises your body’s immune functions and decreases symptoms of depression. This can help stabilize your moods, help you better acknowledge your triggers and increase your resilience. Read more about an anti-inflammatory diet here.
Like diet, exercise can decrease the added risk that comes from excess weight. Additionally, exercise has been found to also decrease inflammation in the body and it produces serotonin, your happy hormone. Exercising regularly can improve your mood and decrease stress (a major trigger for depressive swings).
Try working out 5-7 times a week in short bouts of time. It does not need to be 7 hours a week of heavy weight lifting. It can be a 15-minute walk, a half-hour of yoga, and a couple of spin classes. Whatever way you enjoy working out, do THAT. Whenever possible, I also would encourage you to workout outside. Nature has lots of healing properties and an organic calming effect. Read about the ancient art of tree walking here.
Getting regular, routine, good sleep is vital for anyone, but especially for those who suffer from bipolar. It is easy to say “get good sleep and get up at a regular hour” and assume that everyone will be able to do so. However, if you are suffering from bipolar, this can feel extremely difficult at times. If you or someone you love is suffering from bipolar, be encouraging, but have lots of grace for the days when it is hard to wake up. Do you best to:
- Set a regular sleep schedule that you keep even on weekends or days off from work
- Sleep in a dark place that is cool (around 68 degrees)
- Sleep in your bed every night
- Keep an evening routine of soothing rituals (wash your face, brush your teeth, drink your tea, stretch, lights out, etc.)
- Get out of bed every day. On days when it is especially hard to wake up, just make sure that you get out of bed and breath fresh air at least once
- Practice grounding outside when you wake up
If you want more help assembling a routine, lifestyle, and diet that best supports your health needs, schedule a free consultation with me here. Remember, suffering from a mental health condition is not something to be ashamed of. There are people who want to help you! Your life does not have to be mastered by what you suffer from. You are the master of your own life if you choose to be. No matter what may try to mess with your mind.