Fighting stigma

MARCH 30 is World Bipolar Day (WBD). It is an initiative of International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) in collaboration many agencies including Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders. The theme is “Bring Awareness, Fight Stigma! Share you Passion.”

According to IBPF’s website, WBD is celebrated during the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was posthumously diagnosed as probably having a bipolar disorder.

The goal is to bring world awareness to bipolar conditions and eliminate social stigma. Through this collaboration worldwide, the world will be informed about the conditions that will educate and improve sensitivity towards the situation.

The National Institute of Mental Health defines bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, as a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

People diagnosed by a psychiatrist usually involve in clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, and energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very sad, “down,” or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.

It further stated that there are four basic types of bipolar disorder.

• Bipolar I Disorder — defined by manic episodes that last at least seven days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least two weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depression and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.

• Bipolar II Disorder — defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes described above.

• Cyclothymic Disorder, also called cyclothymia — defined by numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms as well numerous periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least two years (one year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.

• Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders — defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the three categories listed above.

Here are symptoms of people with possible bipolar disorder:
People having a manic episode may:
• Feel very “up,” “high,” or elated
• Have a lot of energy
• Have increased activity levels
• Feel “jumpy” or “weird”
• Have trouble sleeping
• Become more active than usual
• Talk really fast about a lot of different things
• Be agitated, irritable, or “touchy”
• Feel like their thoughts are going very fast
• Think they can do a lot of things at once
• Do risky things, like spend a lot of money or have reckless sex

People having a depressive episode may:
• Feel very sad, down, empty or hopeless
• Have very little energy
• Have decreased activity levels
• Have trouble sleeping, they may sleep too little or too much
• Feel like they can’t enjoy anything
• Feel worried and empty
• Have trouble concentrating
• Forget things a lot
• Eat too much or too little
• Feel tired or “slowed down”
• Think about death or suicide

Like all other mental disorders, being diagnosed of having bipolar disorder means one has a medical condition that affects the mind. It is nothing to be ashamed about. It can be prevented and it can be managed by consulting with your psychiatrist.

Other people should be educated and be made aware of this to let know of stigma and discrimination which comes along with mental disorders.

There are many ways to celebrate World Bipolar Day. Participate by posting information about mental health and bipolar disorder and use hashtag #WorldBipolarDay. Please also visit International Bipolar Foundation’s website, www.ibpf.org, for more activities and details.

Stop the stigma now! Be educated!