Previously, we called it manic depression. Famous diagnoses include Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sting and Demi Lovato. But do you actually know what Bipolar Mood Disorder is?
It’s Not Just Mood Swings
Medically speaking, Bipolar Mood Disorder (BMD) is actually a spectrum of disorders. It can comprise of mostly manic episodes (“I have so much energy, I can do anything”) and mostly depressive episodes (“I’m too down to get out of bed”). It could also have alternating manic and depressive episodes, or even manic and depressive episodes occurring simultaneously. What they all have in common? Recurrent, dramatic mood changes, says psychiatrist Dr Willem van Rooy.
These aren’t your everyday mood swings — you’re looking at extremes, from unnatural highs to crippling lows, that can last for hours, days or weeks at a time. There’s also an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain that can be physically measured — depression is associated with a depletion of serotonin and dopamine, while mania involves increased dopamine activity. But get this: BMD is actually quite common. The World Health Organisation estimates that BMD is the fifth cause of worldwide disability among young adults. In South Africa it affects up to one percent of the population, which may not seem high until you consider that this figure translates into 580 000 people.
Spot The Signs
Trying to figure out if you have BMD? Peep the symptoms of BMD episodes below — and get help, stat.
Three or more symptoms lasting at least seven days: elevated or irritable mood, grandiosity, reduced need for sleep, racing thoughts or ideas, distractibility or impaired attention span, involvement in pleasurable yet potentially dangerous activities, increased pressured speech and increased involvement in goal-orientated activity.
Five or more symptoms within a two-week period: a depressed mood (most of the day, nearly every day), markedly diminished interest in activities, sleep disturbances, psychomotor agitation, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, lack of energy, difficulty in concentrating and suicidal ideation.
If you suspect you, a family member or a friend has bipolar disorder, contact SADAG on 0800 21 22 23, 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, or log on to www.sadag.co.za for help.