The emotional roller coaster ride called bipolar disorder

The depressive stage of bipolar disorder (Photo by Thinkstock)

 

Two weeks prior to her fatal leap from the 28th floor of her residential building, socialite-model Helena Belmonte tweeted the message, “Slash my wrists and hope to die!”

Most people harbor the belief that those who are truly suicidal do not go around announcing their plans to commit suicide.

Unfortunately, that belief is a mistaken belief.

 

Helena cried for help

The truth is that many suicidal people can actually be saved because they call out for help by giving hints of their suicidal intention.

For Helena, it just wasn’t a subtle hint she gave. She posted a direct message to her thousands of followers on Twitter, warning them all of the possibility of killing herself.

Sadly, the post was generally unheeded by most of her followers, with 8 people even favoriting the tweet and 10 people retweeting it.

 

How alcohol didn’t help

A few hours before her tragic fall, she was reported to be partying with too much to drink. Getting drunk was probably what sealed her fate.

First of all, alcohol removed her inhibitions and made her carry out the impulse to jump off the building.

Secondly, alcohol is a brain depressant and it may have intensified her depression and death wish.

Thirdly, alcohol doesn’t mix well with psychiatric medications. The alcohol Helena drank would have interacted badly with any psychiatric medication in her system, possibly worsening her mental confusion and emotional instability.

Whatever her problems were, the only thing that could have saved the impulsively unpredictable and suicidal Helena at that time was psychiatric confinement and intensive monitoring until she regained mental calmness and emotional composure.

 

Helena’s illness

So what is this bipolar disorder which Helena was reported to have?

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition which involves extreme mood swings. “Bipolar” means “having two poles” which refer to mania and depression. Hence, bipolar disorder is also known as “manic-depressive” disorder.

People who suffer from bipolar disorder swing alternately from having long bouts of depression to having long bouts of mania.

 

The manic stage

People with mania act like they are on shabu or some other type of upper. Mania is characterized by:

An extremely happy or angry mood

Having grand and unrealistic ideas

Extreme talkativity

Hyperactive thinking

Hyperactive behaviour

Impulsive behaviours such as overspending or giving away things

Shortened sleep

 

The depressive stage

Depression, on the other hand, is characterized by:

Lingering feelings of sadness or irritability

Loss of motivation, initiative, and zest for living

Low energy level

A pessimistic mindset full of worries, fears and concerns

Losing appetite or over-eating

Insomnia or over-sleeping

Negative self-image and low self-confidence

Poor concentration and memory

Self-harm or suicidal thoughts and behaviors

 

Cause and treatments

Bipolar disorder is caused by neuro-chemical imbalances in the brain.

Thankfully, bipolar disorder is a very treatable condition.

The essential treatment for bipolar disorder consists of mood-stabilizing medication.

 

Improvements

In my clinical practice, most people with bipolar disorder experience significant improvement within 2 to 3 weeks of taking the right medications at the right dosage.

Psychotherapy is also necessary because emotional problems often trigger the bipolar disorder.

Wellness therapies like acupuncture, cranio-sacral therapy, massage, and exercise are all beneficial. Omega-3 fish oil and high-potency vitamin B complex are helpful supplements to take.

 

The disorder as an excuse?

In the Philippines, a number of celebrities are reported to have bipolar disorder.

It seems however that some of them are using the disorder as a convenient excuse (or license) for their wayward attitudes and behaviors.

While some Filipinos consider it shameful to have the disorder, others actually consider bipolar disorder as a status symbol since many prominent people in the U.S. have it.

 

Living a normal life with the disease

As a psychiatrist, I tell people that having bipolar disorder shouldn’t be an impediment to living a normal life.

Jim Carey, Ben Stiller, Mel Gibson, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Catherine Zeta-Jones have all lived highly productive and successful lives despite being manic-depressive.

People with bipolar disorder can certainly recover and become emotionally stable. In fact, with proper treatment, no one might even notice or suspect that they have the condition.


Dr. Randy Dellosa
, popularly known as the "celebrity shrink," is a life coach, counselor, psychotherapist, clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, physician, osteopath, clinical massage therapist, acupuncturist, qigong teacher and energy healer. To contact Doc Randy, visit randydellosa.com

 

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