World Bipolar Day

World Bipolar Day (30th March) is a day designed to raise awareness of a condition that affects around one in every 100 adults. As with many mental health conditions, bipolar disorder can often be misunderstood.

Stereotypes and myths can lead people to believe those with bipolar are completely erratic, wildly productive, or even have ‘split personality’.

The idea of having a ‘split personality’ largely comes from a condition that was once called ‘multiple personality disorder’ (now known as dissociative identity disorder) and Hollywood’s misinterpretations.

Bipolar disorder doesn’t affect a person’s identity, instead it causes them to have depressive and manic episodes. When the person is going through a depressive episode, they’re likely to feel very low and unable to cope. When they experience mania, they may feel euphoric, as if they can do anything. Both have their dangers for a person’s mental well-being.

 

Some people think the mania side of the condition is positive, but many people with the condition would disagree. When someone is experiencing mania, they may not feel like they need sleep, their thoughts can jump quickly from subject to subject and they may struggle to focus.

 

The episode can make people experience ‘grandiose’ ideas, which affects decision-making abilities. This can lead to risky behaviour (such as leaving their job or getting themselves in high-risk situations).

While bipolar disorder is less common than depression, the World Health Organisation says it’s the 6th leading cause of disability in the world. However, bipolar disorder affects everyone differently. Unlike a typical mood swing, the condition causes people to feel these changes much more deeply. Instead of happy to sad, they can go from euphoric to deeply depressed.

For some people, the swings will be rapid and intense (this is called rapid cycling), while others may feel one extreme, such as depression, much more often than mania (or vice versa).

Working with an experienced therapist can help people with bipolar disorder to better understand the nature of their illness and recognise the triggers of their manic or depressive episodes. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a popular approach as it is designed to help individuals change negative thought patterns and learn new coping skills. Family therapy is another approach often used in bipolar treatment as it helps to improve communication between family members and the person living with the condition.

It’s okay to ask for help

We all need a bit of help sometimes, but it can be difficult to know when exactly help is needed, who to ask, and how exactly to ask for it.

Life can surprise us. Unexpected things may happen, or perhaps you just have a lot going on. Whatever it is, sometimes things can seem overwhelming. You may feel like you’re the only one struggling to keep your head above water.

Whether you’re having a bad day, or you have a mental health problem, it’s important you don’t try and cope on your own. However strong you are, we all need support. When feeling low, vulnerable and unlike yourself, spending time on your own is unlikely to help. This is the time when you need to talk to someone – someone you trust – who can offer love, an ear to listen and guide you to the other side.

What’s stopping you?

There are many reasons why a person won’t ask for help. You might not like asking for help. You may feel afraid and ashamed. You might not want to burden anyone with your problems. You may be worried what others will say and what they will think. Perhaps you don’t know where, or who to turn to.

The thing is, people do care. Help is available and even if you’re not comfortable speaking to a friend or family member, there are professionals ready to support you. You just have to ask.

Who can you ask for help?

If you have come to a time where you need a helping hand, there are many roads you can follow. If you have a supportive family network and are comfortable speaking to them, consider talking to your family about how you feel. This may be your parents, your siblings, your grandparents or your cousins.

If you’re not ready to speak to your family (and that’s OK!) it’s important you know there are other options. Know that it’s OK to talk to your friends, neighbours or even colleagues. They won’t judge you – they care about you and to be frank, people love to help.

You can also speak to a professional. If you’re worried about your health – emotional or physical – you can speak to your GP or consider talking to a counsellor. Sometimes, the simple act of speaking about your feelings can offer a sense of relief and ease some of the stress.

How to ask for help

Asking for help is incredibly daunting, but don’t be afraid. If you need immediate help, you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. They’re available 24/7 and all calls are anonymous.

If you’re ready to ask for help but not sure how, here are some ways you can prepare.

Decide who is best to talk to, and who you feel most comfortable speaking to. While many of us can get the support we need from family and friends, others will need to follow a different path. If you’d prefer to speak to a professional or support group, that’s OK.

Choose your time wisely and in a place you feel comfortable. If you like walking while you talk, ask the person to come with you. If you prefer a cafe, or the privacy of your own home, invite them over. Try and choose a location that is relaxed and where you won’t be interrupted.

What do you want from them? Acknowledge what it is you want from speaking to them. Do you simply want someone to listen? Or would you like more support? Go in knowing what it is you want from them, and don’t be afraid to ask.

Make notes and plan ahead if you’re nervous. Asking for help can be very overwhelming, so writing down everything you want to say will help you remember.

Explain how you feel and tell them what it is you want from them. Tell them how they can help you – being on the other side can be just as difficult, so be clear and as understanding to them as they are with you