Bipolar disorder used to be known as manic depression. It can be a very difficult illness to live with for both the patient and those around them. One frustrating part of bipolar disorder is that some people don’t believe that it exists. There are people who roll their eyes and say it’s ‘all in the head’ or ‘just an excuse’ for a situation and all this can do is make people who are suffering feel worse. Bipolar disorder is an actual illness.
Symptoms and behaviour
Symptoms of bipolar disorder include depressive episodes followed by quite high, lifted episodes. The dramatic change in moods can be very difficult to live with. Some days people may feel as though they cannot get out of bed, that getting dressed is a huge challenge and that no amount of persuasion can motivate them to face the day with a smile. It can be extremely hard to carry out a ‘normal’ routine. Other days they may feel instilled with enthusiasm and are able to carry out tasks and take on extra work, they may feel like they are suddenly better, that they are on top of things and then a day or so later the depressive episode kicks in which can be devastating after such an elated mood.
Living with someone with bipolar disorder can be a challenge and seeing someone struggle to get through each day can really make you see that this is not an excuse, this is not someone who is just being lazy or in a bad mood, this is someone who is really struggling with the day to day routine even in the most basic senses.
As well as there being behavioural evidence that bipolar disorder is real there is also biological evidence that this is indeed an illness and not an excuse.
Myelin covers a neural projection, it helps to increase the nerve impulses to the brain. Many people with bipolar disorder are seen to have abnormal and decreased myelin levels. Reduced myelin can lead to mixed up communication in the brain which is similar to that of people suffering from bipolar disorder therefore it does suggest that there is something physical about bipolar disorder.
Response to medication
The fact that some people respond to medication suggests that there is a chemical imbalance or physical problem in the brain which causes the disease. Some drugs treat factors that protect neurons and this then leads to people with bipolar disorder responding well. It is thought that people with bipolar disorder have lost cells or had them damaged and so the drugs help to protect them.
Whether people believe that bipolar disorder is real or an excuse is not important, what is important is that we treat people who do have a diagnosis of this with care. We do not dismiss them and tell them they are imagining it as this can make a person struggling with this illness to feel worse. Watching the behaviours of someone with bipolar disorder can be upsetting, people with this disease do not want to feel how they do, they want to be able to feel confident and able every day of the week and their struggle to achieve this is very difficult to witness.
Biological evidence does suggest that there are physical elements to the illness which supports the argument that this is a real illness and not ‘just an excuse’.